American life in poetry

We’ve been selecting poems for this column for more than ten years and I can’t remember ever publishing a poem about a cat. But here at last is a cat, a lovely old cat. Ron Koertge lives in California, and his most recent book of poems is “Vampire Planet: New & Selected Poems,” from Red Hen Press.


No one would take her when Ruth passed.

As the survivors assessed some antiques,

I kept hearing, “She’s old. Somebody

should put her down.”

I picked her up instead. Every night I tell her

about the fish who died for her, the ones

in the cheerful aluminum cans.

She lies on my chest to sleep, rising

and falling, rising and falling like a rowboat

fastened to a battered dock by a string.

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.