The China Painters

By Ted Kooser b. 1939 Ted Kooser
They have set aside their black tin boxes,   
scratched and dented,
spattered with drops of pink and blue;   
and their dried-up, rolled-up tubes   
of alizarin crimson, chrome green,   
zinc white, and ultramarine;
their vials half full of gold powder;   
stubs of wax pencils;
frayed brushes with tooth-bitten shafts;   
and have gone in fashion and with grace   
into the clouds of loose, lush roses,   
narcissus, pansies, columbine,   
on teapots, chocolate pots,
saucers and cups, the good Haviland dishes   
spread like a garden
on the white lace Sunday cloth,   
as if their souls were bees
and the world had been nothing but flowers.

Ted Kooser, “The China Painters” 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,

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

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Poet Ted Kooser b. 1939

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Trees & Flowers, 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Trees & Flowers, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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