Late February

By Ted Kooser b. 1939 Ted Kooser
The first warm day,   
and by mid-afternoon   
the snow is no more   
than a washing
strewn over the yards,
the bedding rolled in knots   
and leaking water,   
the white shirts lying   
under the evergreens.   
Through the heaviest drifts   
rise autumn’s fallen   
bicycles, small carnivals   
of paint and chrome,   
the Octopus
and Tilt-A-Whirl   
beginning to turn
in the sun. Now children,   
stiffened by winter   
and dressed, somehow,   
like old men, mutter   
and bend to the work   
of building dams.
But such a spring is brief;   
by five o’clock
the chill of sundown,   
darkness, the blue TVs   
flashing like storms
in the picture windows,   
the yards gone gray,   
the wet dogs barking   
at nothing. Far off   
across the cornfields
staked for streets and sewers,   
the body of a farmer   
missing since fall
will show up
in his garden tomorrow,   
as unexpected
as a tulip.

Ted Kooser, “Late February” from Sure Signs. Copyright © 1980 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Sure Signs (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980)

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Poet Ted Kooser b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Spring, Winter, Death, Living, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Ted  Kooser


Poet and essayist Ted Kooser is known for his honest, accessible verse that celebrates the quotidian and captures a vanishing way of life. Brad Leithauser wrote in the New York Times Book Review that, “Whether or not he originally set out to…[Kooser’s] become, perforce, an elegist.” Populated by farmers, family ancestors, and heirlooms, Kooser’s poems reflect his abiding interest in the past, but escape nostalgia in part because . . .

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SUBJECT Spring, Winter, Death, Living, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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