American Life in Poetry: Column 643

By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

Here’s a lovely poem that imagines the afterlife by Emily Ransdell, who divides her time between Washington and the Oregon coast. This poem appeared first in The Cortland Review.

Bowling in Heaven


Like newlyweds,

my parents slip out of their clothes.

He puts aside the sweater I chose

for him, she undoes her pearls.


They rise up from their old ailments,

their fears of falling, broken hips

and other bad news.

Now they dance

barefoot in their living room,

go bowling on a whim.

They garden all day without pain,

calling out like songbirds,

come see the hollyhocks,

they have grown so tall!


Nights, they lie down

like dolls and their sleepless eyes

glide closed. They seem so eager

for morning, I pray they will find each other

again and again.

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 ©2016 by Emily Ransdell, “Bowling in Heaven,” from The Cortland Review, (Issue 69, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Emily Ransdell and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 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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