American Life in Poetry

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

The greeting card companies are still making money, though the inventive online “cards” are gaining ground. Here’s a poem about pen and ink greeting cards, by Cynthia Ventresca, who lives in Delaware.




She lived there for years in a

small space in a high rise that saw

her winter years dawn. When the past

became larger than her present,

she would call and thank us for cards

we gave her when we were small;

for Christmas, Mother’s Day, her birthday,

our devotion scrawled amidst depictions

of crooked hearts and lopsided lilies.


She would write out new ones,

and we found them everywhere—unsent;

in perfect cursive she wished us joy,

chains of x’s and o’s circling her signature.

And when her time alone was over,

the space emptied of all but sunshine, dust,

and a cross nailed above her door,

those cards held for us a bitter peace;

they had finally been delivered.


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 ©2015 by Cynthia A. Ventresca, “Delivered,” (Third Wednesday, Vol. VIII, No. 4, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Cynthia A. Ventresca and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 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. They do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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