American Life in Poetry

American Life in Poetry


One of poetry's most important tools is sensory imagery, and the following poem, by Christie Towers of Massachusetts, brings in pleasurable smells, tastes and sounds to evoke a rich experience starting with what? Just a bowl of water. This poem was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod International Journal.

Sugar Water in Winter

A bowl of rose water dreams itself empty

on the radiator: It's December and we can

hardly afford the heat, our milk money

crinkling hungry over the cold counter

of our convenience store, the very last

of our cash for creamer, for pleasantries,

for cheap tea and cigarettes, for the barely-

there scent of roses burning softly. We trade

our hungers for hearth, for the clank and hiss

of warmth. Small fires, these, but even we,

in our clamorous poverty, demand pleasure:

steal sugar, our neighbor's flowers, and never,

ever are caught thankless in better weather.

Poem reprinted by permission. Weekly column made possible by The Poetry Foundation, Library of Congress and Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Unsolicited manuscripts not accepted.


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