The former U.S. poet laureate rises in the dark each morning to write at his home in the countryside near Garland.
On Tuesday, Ted Kooser sat at his chair on the sun porch, facing east like always.
He wrote about our planet’s faithful satellite 240,000 miles away, alone and “wearing a white mask as it passed us.”
Our moon, “pushing a cart heaped up with stars,” he wrote, more stars than it could ever need.
“Full Moon,” he called his poem when he’d finished.
Kooser gave me permission to publish that poem here, although like any self-respecting poet, he asked that it be allowed space, so the words sat on the lines as they were written, not chopped apart by a newspaper’s pedestrian limits.
It seemed fair.
You can see it — somewhere close — in its brief but beautiful entirety.
I’ve known Kooser for many years, the insurance executive, English professor poet (married to my former editor Kathleen Rutledge) who walked through the newsroom with Valentine’s Day poems written on postcards, each a perfect bouquet of love signed by its author.
I followed him to Washington, D.C., when he became poet laureate in 2004, and sat with him in his sunny yard a year later, the day his book of poetry, “Delights and Shadows,” won the Pulitzer Prize, his dogs licking his face as he delighted in the surprising news.
The world needs its poets right now, its dreamers and its philosophers, those who ponder and hope.
Those who see metaphors in space and view all things earthly with a fine and lyrical eye.
The moon with its toilet paper stars, a far-away wink at our human foibles.
After he worked those words over Tuesday morning, Kooser left the poem on his wife's chair to greet her when she awoke, and she posted it on her Facebook page at 8:47 a.m.
“Fresh this morning from Ted Kooser,” she wrote.
It found an audience there and beyond there, people hungry for respite while they watch their familiar world tilt like a carnival ride.
For the 80-year-old poet, writing is a way of coping.
“Keeping my mind looking forward,” he says. “Art is an affirmation of life. It flies in the face of times that appear to be hopelessly bad.”
“Full Moon” sprang out of a thought he had one morning. “That the moon is the perfect model of pure isolation.”
The poem spun out from there, and he fiddled with the words before he shared it with his wife.
He might fiddle with them some more. “They always seem perfect for a very short time before they begin to smell a little.”
I love this man’s words.
He and Rutledge spend many days in solitude, he said, there in the Bohemian Alps of Seward County. They will head to town for a grocery store run in the days to come. They will take walks, cook, talk, read.
When I asked Kooser how he is coping with all of this, this pandemic sweeping the world, knocking things over, he said that gratitude helps.
Making a list of what we have to be thankful for amid our fears. Doing it often.
And then he sent me another poem written Wednesday, at the beginning of what feels like a new era, as he travels the same well-worn writing path he began during his years in the business world.
Up early, with a fountain pen and paper.
He called this one “Queue.”
It ends like this, with quiet and steady words for us to lean on.
... And although each of us / one day runs short on the future, for all / there’s the present we stand in, shifting / our pains from one leg to the other, / and, always behind us, the past, having / made it through everything, its hands / on our shoulders, urging us on.
Latest updates on coronavirus in Lincoln and nearby
See the latest news as more coronavirus cases are identified in Nebraska.
More than 1,000 residents have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Lincoln and Lancaster County, health officials announced Friday.
After 30 days at the medical center and three weeks of isolation at her father’s home in west Omaha, Emma Hutchinson was allowed to resume eating solid food and say goodbye to “Fred,” her nickname for the feeding tube.
Lincoln residents, many donning masks and keeping their distance from others, visited local cemeteries to pay their respects.
Jenny Michener was feted by a drive-thru party celebrating her graduation from Lincoln Southeast on a day devoted to grads.
The Nebraska National Guard has been actively engaged on the front lines of the state's battle against the coronavirus.
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More than 3,000 high school seniors in Lincoln are graduating into a world nobody’s navigated before, staring into a pandemic that has closed schools, slashed families’ economic security and, for many graduates, changed their college plans.
NU athletic director Bill Moos knows he and his staff will be judged on how they handle their business during the pandemic. So far, so good.
David Graff works remotely these days, as do the hundreds who call Hudl's high-tech headquarters in the Haymarket their workplace.
Intensive care hospital beds at less than 20% available.
At this point, Bill Moos says, he can't say for certain that Nebraska will play all — or even any — of its non-conference games.
Retirement didn't last long for former Lincoln Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Despain.
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Moos said Nebraska's plan for bringing student-athletes back to campus is detailed and thorough enough that the Big Ten requested that it be shared with other schools in the conference.
There might be more hand sanitizer and disinfectants in the ballpark than spectators, but there will be baseball in the Capital City.
Lost revenue and potential future impacts on state funding led UNL to freeze salaries for the year, Chancellor Ronnie Green said.
We're putting together a list of businesses that are reopening in the Lincoln area. Let us know your plans by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almost two-thirds of Nebraska's 49 senators are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 complications because of age or underlying health conditions.
Three more inmates at the Community Corrections Center-Omaha have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to seven inmates who have t…
Nebraska is delaying volleyball season ticket renewals due to pandemic-related uncertainty, the school confirmed to the Journal Star on Wednesday.
At middle and high schools across the city, teachers made signs and hung decorations and put on costumes and played music to help students note the end of a school year where dining room tables and bedroom desks became the classroom.
Monday's flyover was part of a pre-planned training flight and included more than 30 Nebraska hospitals, ending with those in Lincoln.
Prosecutors charged Nyadak Tut, of Lincoln, with assault on a health care professional, a felony.
As other establishments slowly begin to open their doors, John Losito and Jason Korn think it could be time to do the same.
Laboratory testing showed the new mask caught more than 90% of airborne particles expelled into the mask.
Sen. Ben Sasse spoke during Fremont High School's virtual graduation Saturday and spent a majority of his speech ripping China for causing the pandemic and making jokes about psychologists and people named Jeremy.
The first wedding party to celebrate at the Lincoln Commercial Club Ballroom had plenty of room to keep their distance -- and to set up a game of cornhole.
A Lincoln woman exhibited many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 but tested negative -- doctors say she's not the only one.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson are taking the lead on the coalition. The letter is also signed by attorneys general in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Romeo Guerra sensed this national trend would prove out in the Lincoln area before the data arrived, he said.
Journal Star photographers have captured life in the city for the past months with some activities going on as usual but many sights out of the norm.
From Christmas lights in Minden to a COVID-19 test relay by the State Patrol, many people have stepped up to spread cheer and kindness in Linc…
Lincoln police didn't write any tickets for a violation of Lancaster County's directed health measure, according to city officials.
Lincoln needs to outlaw price-gouging during emergencies such as this pandemic, City Councilman James Michael Bowers said Monday.
For Marci Davison of Carmela's, and other Lincoln business owners, reopening after a trying six weeks marked a milestone of sorts.
Lincoln city officials reported 40 more COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing the county total to 647.
Gov. Pete Ricketts called the suggestion "ludicrous."
This columnist isn't ready to dine out yet, and some local venues aren't ready to have customers in the door yet, either. Find out who's in and who is waiting for COVID-19 cases to dwindle.
While facing technological, social and financial challenges, the percentage of students who did at least some coursework ranged from 44% at North Star to 90% at Southwest, and most schools had less than 60% of students engaging, according to rough estimates.
The city begins its new directed health measure on Monday. It runs through June 30.
The county's report comes on the heels of a round of testing for all workers at Tyson’s Dakota City plant. The county's total is now the highest in the state.
On Thursday, during both National Nurses Week and National Hospitals Week, the selfie walls were installed at both Bryan East and Bryan West Campus hospitals.
Lincoln and Lancaster County will implement eased restrictions beginning Monday, after Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and her health director relu…
At least one Nebraska health department says it will no longer report COVID-19 case numbers linked to specific meatpacking plants after Gov. Pete Ricketts raised health privacy concerns.
A Lincoln family recreates a "Wishtree" in their front yard as a way to share hopes during the pandemic.
Officers broke up recent beach parties with more than 100 people.
Gov. Ricketts said he has tried to balance restrictions with a regional loosening of mandates that preserves citizen willingness and responsibility, an approach sometimes described as "the hammer and the dance."
The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Lincoln and Lancaster County has led a national coronavirus case tracking system to label the area as a pote…
Months of planning and entire careers in public health have prepared the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department for what one employee called "the most defining moment of most of our lives."
As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, questions continue to trickle into the Journal Star newsroom asking if the Lincoln-Lancaster County …
B&R is seeing higher costs for many pork and beef products and supply is limited, the stores' marketing director said.
Cain revealed on a video posted to Huskers.com that some of her immediate family members have recovered after bouts with coronavirus.
Viengxay Khuninh, a worker at a Tyson plant in Dakota City, developed a cough, then a fever, last month. Less than a week later, he was dead.
Air National Guard member spends several weeks working in New York City hospital, goes home with COVID-19.
“The stories that came from those families, you could hear the common themes — I’m frightened, my hours were reduced, I’ve never been in this situation before,” said Foundation for LPS President Wendy Van DeLaCastro.
So why did one customer come to Gateway Friday? "Sick of sitting at home. Wanted to get a new pair of kicks. My wife’s at work. I’ve got nothing to do.”
At least 48 of those who have died in Nebraska thus far because of the coronavirus were residents of long-term care facilities.
The 669 workers with the virus represent over 15% of the Dakota City plant's workforce.
Arnold Zimmerman's family had his obituary written.
The Lincoln Airport, which already has seen its passenger numbers crater because of COVID-19, is about to take another hit.
Hospitals in Nebraska have "all agreed to cooperate," the state's chief medical officer said, and that means Omaha hospitals can "use Lincoln capacity if necessary" to meet their needs.
Bryan Health officials said they believe COVID-19 cases are stabilizing even as they reported what appears to be the highest number so far of …
"I wouldn't be running this test in this laboratory if I didn't believe in it," said CHI Health St. Elizabeth lab director Becky Croner. "... If there is any reason I don't believe the results are correct, we pull it and run it again."
Officials say Nebraska's economy may have also fared better overall during the downturn because the state's social-distancing measures weren't as strict as most states imposed.
Six weeks ago, a Boy Scout from Firth launched a 3-D printing project to help the sore ears of frontline workers during the pandemic; he's shipping free EarSavers all over the country now.
Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska, The Salvation Army and other local charities are working to support Nebraskans struggling to pay their rent, mortgage and utilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
On a quiet street in Lincoln, a musician plays the accordion during the pandemic, delighting neighbors and passersby.
No official city fireworks this year, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said. What do you think of the decision?
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
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