American Life in Poetry

American Life in Poetry

By Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

E.B. White, one of my favorite writers, used to say, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” but that doesn’t mean that writing has to be simple, which is a different matter. Here’s a fine poem by Laurel Blossom of Edgefield, South Carolina, that’s been simplified into a pure, clean beauty.


Red Balloon Rising


I tied it to your wrist

With a pretty pink bow, torn off

By the first little tug of wind.

I’m sorry.


I jumped to catch it, but not soon enough.

It darted away.


It still looked large and almost within reach.

Like a heart.


Watch, I said.

You squinted your little eyes.


The balloon looked happy, waving



The sky is very high today, I said.

Red went black, a polka dot,


Then not. We watched it,

Even though we couldn’t


Spot it anymore at all.

Even after that.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Laurel Blossom, whose most recent book of poetry is Degrees of Latitude, Four Way Books, 2007. Poem reprinted from Pleiades, Vol. 31, no. 1, 2011, by permission of Laurel Blossom and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 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.