While We Were Passing

From Splitting an Order. Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

As if it were waiting for someone,
the house faced the road, its door
held open by a little bronze dog,
the lace curtains at its windows
drawn back and tied, so the parlor
must have been warm and yellow
with a welcoming light.

the sliding had been freshly painted
a sticky-looking white, with green
screened windows and the customary
battleship-gray on the floor of the porch,
where two plain kitchen chairs
were turned to face each other
as if prepared for conversation.

The grass was recently mowed,
and clipped by hand around the stones
that lined the footpath to the door,
and the clippings had been swept away.
This happened the last Sunday in May,
and on either side of the porch
were peonies droopy with blossoms.

And it looked as if someone had recently
picked up the petals that had fallen,
though more were falling as we passed,
petal by petal, in the indifferent,
casual manner of peonies, and perhaps
someone was standing just inside
and watching them fall, almost

feeling them fall, and was waiting
to come out again now that we
had passed, to pick up more of them,
one hand packing them like tissues
into the other, keeping an eye on the place
where the road came toward her
wide and empty out of the trees.

Poem copyright Ted Kooser, used here with permission.

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