Arts and Entertainment

A Grandfather, poem by Marie Thurmer | Ted Kooser

There are thousands of poems about caring for the old, but I have never before seen one like this, in which a caregiver wades with an elderly person out into deep water, literally and figuratively. It’s by Marie Thurmer, a poet now living in Nebraska.


A Grandfather

We waded in the shallows,
holding his hands, then just
fingertips, as his feet
slowly lifted off the bottom.
The land did not stop
at the waterline, but simply
became unreachable.
His worn face bobbed above
the waves, breath in an O
as our words, fistfuls
of shimmering minnows,
scattered, lost on their way
to him. The tide carried
him out, then back a bit,
a gradual letting go into dark
waters, and we, still
in the ebb, could almost
mistake that O
for the response we wanted—
on the ins, I’ll remember you,
on the outs, goodbye.

 

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher ofPoetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Marie Thurmer, and reprinted by permission of the poet. Introduction copyright ©2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Our Mobile Apps

Community Events, April 2014

Add an Event
We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Apr 23 edition online now. Browse the archives.