American Life in Poetry: Column 355

Here’s an experience that I’d guess most of the men who read this column have had, getting into a rental tuxedo. Bill Trowbridge, a poet from Missouri, does a fine job of picturing that particular initiation rite.

Rental Tux
It chafed like some new skin we’d grown,

or feathers, the cummerbund and starched collar

pinching us to show how real this transformation

into princes was, how powerful we’d grown

by getting drivers’ licenses, how tall and total

our new perspective, above that rusty keyhole

parents squinted through. We’d found the key:

that nothing really counts except a romance

bright as Technicolor, wide as Cinerama,

and this could be the night. No lie.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2006 by William Trowbridge, from his most recent book of poems, Ship of Fool, Red Hen Press, 2011. Introduction copyright ©2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.