American Life in Poetry: Column 709

By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate


Jim Daniels lives and teaches in Pittsburgh. I love this poem from Street Calligraphy, from Steel Toe Books, of Western Kentucky University, Daniels’ 17th book. A young father and his two small children, tucked into a comfortable old chair at the end of a day. What could feel better than that?


Talking About the Day


Each night after reading three books to my two children—

we each picked one—to unwind them into dreamland,

I’d turn off the light and sit between their beds

in the wide junk-shop rocker I’d reupholstered blue,

still feeling the close-reading warmth of their bodies beside me,

and ask them to talk about the day—we did this,

we did that, sometimes leading somewhere, sometimes

not, but always ending up at the happy ending of now.

Now, in still darkness, listening to their breath slow and ease

into sleep’s regular rhythm.

                      Grown now, you might’ve guessed.

The past tense solid, unyielding, against the acidic drip

of recent years. But how it calmed us then, rewinding

the gentle loop, and in the trusting darkness, pressing play.


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 ©2017 by Jim Daniels, “Talking About the Day,” from Street Calligraphy, (Steel Toe Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Jim Daniels and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2018 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. The Poetry Foundation does not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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