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American Life in Poetry: Column 431

Here’s a splendid poem by James Doyle, who lives in Colorado, about the way children make up mythic selves that will in some way serve them in life. To create one’s self as a palm reader is only one of many possibilities.

In the Planetarium

I read the palms of the other

kids on the field trip to see

which ones would grow up

to be astronauts. The lifeline

on Betty Lou’s beautiful hand

ended the day after tomorrow,

so I told her how the rest

of our lives is vastly over-rated,

even in neighboring galaxies.

When she asked me how I knew

so much, I said I watched

War of the Worlds six times

and, if she went with me to

the double-feature tomorrow,

I’d finish explaining the universe.

I smiled winningly. The Haley’s Comet

lecture by our teacher whooshed in

my one ear and out the other.

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 © 2012 by James Doyle, from his most recent book of poems, The Long View Just Keeps Treading Water, Accents Publishing, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of James Doyle and the publisher. 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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