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Cindy Lange-Kubick: Full moon in an empty world, the solace of Ted Kooser's poetry
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Cindy Lange-Kubick: Full moon in an empty world, the solace of Ted Kooser's poetry

Ted Kooser

Former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser poses at his home near Garland in August 2011.

Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

Pondering.

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.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick has loved writing columns about life in her hometown since 1994. She had hoped to become a people person by now, nonetheless she would love to hear your tales of fascinating neighbors and interesting places.

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