Readers of this column during the past year have by now learned how enthusiastic I am about poems describing everyday life. I've tried to show...

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Readers of this column during the past year have by now learned how enthusiastic I am about poems describing everyday life. I’ve tried to show how the ordinary can be made extraordinary through close and transforming observation. Here Tess Gallagher goes to the mailbox to post a letter. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? But notice how closely she pays attention to this simple experience, and how she fits this one moment into the meaning of her life.

TED KOOSER, U.S. Poet Laureate

The sleep of this night deepens

because I have walked coatless from the house

carrying the white envelope.

All night it will say one name

in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag

so its shadow under the roadlamp

leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.

Now I will walk back

thinking of the few lights still on

in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen

the millworker has finished his coffee,

his wife has laid out the white slices of bread

on the counter. Now while the bed they have left

is still warm, I will think of you, you

who are so far away

you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved

from childhood, those games played after dark.

Again I walk into the wet grass

toward the starry voices. Again, I

am the found one, intimate, returned

by all I touch on the way.

Tess Gallagher

“Under Stars” copyright 1987 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from “Amplitude: New & Selected Poems” with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn. Gallagher’s most recent book of poetry is “Dear Ghosts: Poems,” Graywolf Press, 2006. 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.