I See a Young Woman

March 05, 2014

The persons we are when we are young are probably buried somewhere within us when we’ve grown old. Denise Low, who was the Kansas poet laureate, takes a look at a younger version of herself in this telling poem. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Two Gates

I look through glass and see a young woman
of twenty, washing dishes, and the window
turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago.
She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot
I still own. I see her outline against lamplight;
she knows only her side of the pane. The porch
where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear
water run in the sink as she lowers her head,
blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist.

I step forward for a better look and she dissolves
into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through
to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand
squared into the present, among maple trees
and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost
a mother to that faint, distant woman.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Denise Low, from her most recent book of poetry, Ghost Stories of the New West, Woodley Memorial Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Denise Low and the publisher. 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.

Not quite 30 years ago, but still...

You Might Also Like


  1. Kathy - you were certainly a lovely bride. I have been married thirty seven years this June - in some ways I would like to revisit that young woman and share a great many truths I have learned since then but perhaps it was best she learned them on her own. Have a great day and thanks for sharing the lovely poem and picture. Now I am going to catch up on your previous posts.

  2. Debbie--You are so kind! I've been married 26 years, and I know what you mean. I'd like to help the younger me out with some wisdom, but I don't know if she'd take it to heart as much as she did learning it first hand. Something to remember when I'm trying to impart wisdom to my son!

  3. What an interesting poem you have shared. I had never visualized thinking back on my younger self, but it was quite interesting for me to imagine as I read the poem. So many years ago for me ... soon to be 35 and I had no idea what my life would turn out to be.

    Thank you for sharing your lovely wedding picture. It is so fun to see the smiles and enthusiasm - imagining your life ahead of you. Wishing you many happy memories to reflect on as your anniversary approaches.

  4. Claire--I had no idea what my life would be like, either. It's completely different than I imagined when I was growing up (I live in FL rather than CA, for one thing). Some things are just different (I hesitate to say "worse"), and some things are much better than I ever dreamed.