American Life Poetry

Published on Thu, May 7, 2009
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By Ted Kooser
Former U.S. Poet Laureate

To commemorate Mother’s Day, here’s a lovely poem by David Wojahn of Virginia, remembering his mother after forty years.

Walking to School, 1964

Blurring the window, the snowflakes’
numb white lanterns.
She’s brewed her coffee, in the bathroom
sprays cologne
And sets her lipstick upright on the sink.
The door ajar, I glimpse the yellow slip,

The rose-colored birthmark on her
Then she’s dressed—the pillbox hat and
ersatz fur,
And I’m dressed too, mummified in
stocking cap
And scarves, and I walk her to the bus

Where she’ll leave me for my own walk
to school,
Where she’ll board the bus that zigzags
to St. Paul
As I watch her at the window, the

Romance already open on her lap,
The bus laboring off into snow, her
good-bye kiss
Still startling my cheek with lipstick trace.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)1990 by David Wojahn, whose most recent book of poems is “Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004,” University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006. “Walking to School, 1964” is from the longer poem “White Lanterns,” printed in “Poetry,” Vol. 157, 1990, by permission of David Wojahn and the publisher.
Introduction copyright (c)2009 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.