Sleeping on Sunlight

April 03, 2013

Putting bed pillows onto the grass to freshen, it’s a pretty humble subject for a poem, but look how Kentucky poet, Frank Steele, deftly uses a sun-warmed pillow to bring back the comfort and security of childhood. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Part of a Legacy

I take pillows outdoors to sun them   
as my mother did.  “Keeps bedding fresh,”   
she said.  It was April then, too—   
buttercups fluffing their frail sails,   
one striped bee humming grudges, a crinkle   
of jonquils.  Weeds reclaimed bare ground.   
All of these leaked somehow   
into the pillows, looking odd where they   
simmered all day, the size of hams, out of place   
on grass.  And at night I could feel   
some part of my mother still with me   
in the warmth of my face as I dreamed   
baseball and honeysuckle, sleeping   
on sunlight.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2000 by Frank Steele, whose most recent book of poetry is Singing into That Fresh Light, co-authored with Peggy Steele, ed. Robert Bly, Blue Sofa Press, 2001. Reprinted from Blue Sofa Review, Vol. II, no. 1, Spring 2000, by permission of Frank Steele. 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.

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  1. I love the imagery of sleeping on sunlight!

  2. We just bought new pillows recently, and they have a rather unpleasant smell to them that I know from experience will go away in a couple of weeks. I should do this with them! Instead, I put them in a bathroom to air out - not the same at all!

  3. Cheryl--Just imagine how delicious they'd smell after hanging out in the sun for a while!