A Writer's Hope

September 10, 2014

Desk of writer Frances Parkinson Keyes
Introduction by Ted Kooser: If writers are both skilled and lucky, they may write something that will carry their words into the future, past the hour of their own deaths. I’d guess all writers hope for this, and the following poem by Peter Cooley, who lives in New Orleans and teaches creative writing at Tulane, beautifully expresses his hope, and theirs.

The One Certain Thing

A day will come I’ll watch you reading this.
I’ll look up from these words I’m writing now—
this line I’m standing on, I’ll be right here,
alive again. I’ll breathe on you this breath.
Touch this word now, that one. Warm, isn’t it?

You are the person come to clean my room;
you are whichever of my three children
opens the drawer here where this poem will go
in a few minutes when I’ve had my say.

These are the words from immortality.
No one stands between us now except Death:
I enter it entirely writing this.
I have to tell you I am not alone.
Watching you read, Eternity’s with me.
We like to watch you read. Read us again.

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 ©2009 by Peter Cooley, whose most recent book of poems is “Divine Margins,” Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from “Pleiades,” Vol. 29, no. 2, 2009, by permission of Peter Cooley and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2010 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. Wow, that's a great poem!! Must be an older one. At least I don't remember it. Of course it. Ours just be my terrible memory.

  2. Cheryl--Yes, it is an older one. I go back through the archives looking for poems that seem to fit the season, mood I'm in, etc. I just loved this one and had to share.

  3. Oh Kathy - this is such a great poem. Never read it before but it truly is every Writer's Hope! Know it is mine. Hugs.

  4. What a lovely poem--the idea of the longevity of words and how they come alive each time they are read anew! Thanks for my daily (well, am not so good at all for a real daily dose) of poetry! :)

  5. Debbie--It seems no matter what we write, all writers share that same hope! Glad you enjoyed the poem.

  6. Danielle--You're welcome. I loved this poem and am glad others are enjoying it, too.