From American Life in Poetry.
American Life in Poetry: Column 722
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
There are so many fine poems in Richard Robbins’ new and selected poems, Body Turn to Rain (available at your local bookstore or on Amazon), published by LynxHouse Press, that I had a difficult time choosing one to show you. This one, though, with its tablecloth trick, is one of my favorites. Robbins lives in Mankato, Minnesota, and teaches at Minnesota State.
“Old Country Portraits”
My lost sister used to try the trick
with the tablecloth, waiting until
the wine had been poured, the gravy boat filled,
before snapping the linen her way
smug as a matador, staring down
silver and crystal that would dare move,
paying no mind to the ancestor gloom
gliding across the wallpaper like clouds
of a disapproving front—no hutch
or bureau spared, no lost sister sure
the trick would work this time, all those she loved
in another room, nibbling saltines,
or in the kitchen, plating the last
of the roast beef. How amazed they would be
to be called to the mahogany room
for supper, to find something missing,
something beautiful, finally, they could
never explain, the wine twittering
in its half-globes, candles aflutter, each
thing in its place, or so it seemed then,
even though their lives had changed for good.
We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. 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 ©2017 by Richard Robbins, “Old Country Portraits,” from Body Turn to Rain, (LynxHouse Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Richard Robbins and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 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.