As we reported a few months ago, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has committed to a new series of columns that highlight poetry and its importance in everyday life. From time to time we’ll share the reprinted columns here, and provide you a chance to add your comments. This week’s column offers a quiet example of how family connections and ancestry often provide powerful subject matter.
American Life in Poetry: Column 012
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Perhaps your family passes on the names of loved ones to subsequent generations. This poem by Andrei Guruianu speaks to the loving and humbling nature of sharing another’s name.
Dead before I came into this world, grandfather,
I carry your name, yet I’ve never met you.
I hear my name, and know
that somehow they refer to you.
When I scribble those six letters
fast, to sign some document
or print them neatly in a box,
I feel your presence flow with the ink
stain and burn through the paper,
forever imprinted in my mind.
Late summer nights
gathered around the dinner table,
leftovers being cleared away,
faces clouded in cigarette smoke,
I hear voices pass the word
back and forth in reverence.
Somehow I know it’s not me
the little one grabbing for attention.
They speak of you, Andrei,
the one I’ve never met,
whose name I carry.
Reprinted from “Paterson Literary Review” by permission of the author. Andrei Guruianu is a reporter for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. Poem copyright 2003 by Andrei Guruianu. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.