American Life in Poetry

Garrison Keillor has used a number of George Bilgere’s poems on The Writer’s Almanac, and I’ve used several in this column, and it seems neither of us can get quite enough of this writer’s clear, honest and moving work. This poem is from a recent issue of River Styx. Bilgere lives near Lake Erie and his most recent book is “Imperial,” from The University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Forge

I remember watching my father stop

halfway up the driveway because my tricycle

was blocking the way to the garage,

and how he solved the problem

by picking up the tricycle by the handlebars

and smashing it through the windshield

of our brand new family station wagon,

his face red with scotch, his black tie

and jacket flapping with effort, the tricycle

making its way a little farther with each blow

into the roomy interior of the latest model

as the safety glass relented, the tricycle

and the windshield both praiseworthy

in their toughness, the struggle between them

somehow making perfect sense

in midday on our quiet suburban street,

the windshield the anvil, the trike the hammer,

the marriage the forge, and failure

glowing in the heat, beaten

and tempered, slowly taking shape.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It also is supported by the department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Introduction copyright 2014 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. Unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted.