Walking on Tiptoe

By Ted Kooser b. 1939 Ted Kooser
Long ago we quit lifting our heels
like the others—horse, dog, and tiger—
though we thrill to their speed
as they flee. Even the mouse
bearing the great weight of a nugget   
of dog food is enviably graceful.
There is little spring to our walk,
we are so burdened with responsibility,   
all of the disciplinary actions
that have fallen to us, the punishments,   
the killings, and all with our feet
bound stiff in the skins of the conquered.   
But sometimes, in the early hours,   
we can feel what it must have been like   
to be one of them, up on our toes,
stealing past doors where others are sleeping,   
and suddenly able to see in the dark.

Ted Kooser, “Walking on Tiptoe” from Delights and Shadows. Copyright © 2004 by Ted Kooser. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Delights and Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Ted Kooser b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Pets, Animals, Relationships, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Ted  Kooser

Biography

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Pets, Animals, Relationships, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.