This wistful poem shows how the familiar and the odd, the real and imaginary, exist side by side. A Midwestern father transforms himself...

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This wistful poem shows how the familiar and the odd, the real and imaginary, exist side by side. A Midwestern father transforms himself from a staid businessman into a rock ‘n’ roll star, reclaiming a piece of his imaginary youth. In the end, it shows how fragile moments might be recovered to offer a glimpse into our inner lives.

TED KOOSER, U.S. Poet Laureate

In New York City for a conference

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on weed control, leaving the hotel

in a cluster of horticulturalists,

he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,

narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,

holds the door for the Asian woman

in a miniskirt and thigh high

white leather boots. She nods

slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.

Neither smile, as if performing

a timeless ritual, as if anticipating

the loss of a son or a lover.

Years later, Christmas, inexplicably

he dons my mother’s auburn wig,

my brother’s wire-rimmed glasses,

and strikes a pose clowning

with my second hand acoustic guitar.

He is transformed, a working class hero

and a door whispers shut,

like cherry blossoms falling.

Christopher Chambers

Reprinted from “Folio,” Winter, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright 2004 by Christopher Chambers, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University New Orleans. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry. “American Life in Poetry” appears Fridays in Northwest Life.