American life in poetry

It’s high time that a column about American life can at last offer a poem about romance fiction. Most of us poets are lucky to have a few hundred readers for our books, and that’s only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of devoted followers of bodice-rippers. Here’s a poem by Marilyn L. Taylor, who lives in Wisconsin, that offers an explanation.

Aunt Eudora’s Harlequin Romance

She turns the bedlamp on. The book falls open

in her mottled hands, and while she reads

her mouth begins to quiver, forming words

like Breathless. Promises. Elope.

As she turns the leaves, Eudora’s cheek

takes on a bit of bloom. Her frowzy hair

thickens and turns gold, her dim eyes clear,

the wattles vanish from her slender neck.

Her waist, emerging from its ring of flesh,

bends to the side. Breasts that used to hang

like pockets rise and ripen; her long legs

tremble. Her eyes close, she holds her breath–

the steamy pages flutter by, unread,

as lover after lover finds her bed.

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.