American Life in Poetry

Those of you who’ve returned home to visit parents may recognize the way the familiar and the strange wash together in this wise and peaceful poem by Robert Tremmel. The poet is from Iowa and his most recent book is “There is a Naked Man,” (Main Street Rag Press, 2010).

All the Questions

When you step through

the back door

into the kitchen

father is still

sitting at the table

with a newspaper

folded open

in front of him

and pen raised, working

the crossword puzzle.

In the living room

mother is sleeping

her peaceful sleep

at last, in a purple

robe, with her head

back, slippered feet

up and twisted

knuckle hands crossed

right over left

in her lap.

Through the south window

in your old room

you see leaves

on the giant ash tree

turning yellow again

in setting sun

and falling slowly

to the ground and one

by one all the questions

you ever had become clear.

Number one across:

a four-letter word

for no longer.

Number one down:

an eleven letter word

for gone.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), 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.