This week’s poem from American Life in Poetry is about how the poet’s granddaughter handles getting routed in a soccer game. The poem teaches us two valuable lessons. First, his granddaughter’s team really sucks. Second, the best way to handle your opponent’s gloating is to chant and laugh like a crazy person.
American Life in Poetry: Column 222
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Coleman Barks, who lives in Georgia, is not only the English language’s foremost translator of the poems of the 13th century poet, Rumi, but he’s also a loving grandfather, and for me that’s even more important. His poems about his granddaughter, Briny, are brim full of joy. Here’s one:
In the glory of the gloaming-green soccer
field her team, the Gladiators, is losing
ten to zip. She never loses interest in
the roughhouse one-on-one that comes
every half a minute. She sticks her leg
in danger and comes out the other side running.
Later a clump of opponents on the street is chant-
ing, WE WON, WE WON, WE . . . She stands up
on the convertible seat holding to the wind-
shield. WE LOST, WE LOST BIGTIME, TEN TO
NOTHING, WE LOST, WE LOST. Fist pumping
air. The other team quiet, abashed, chastened.
Good losers don’t laugh last; they laugh
continuously, all the way home so glad.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 ©2001 by Coleman Barks, from his most recent book of poems, “Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008,” University of Georgia Press, 2008, and reprinted by permission of Coleman Barks and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 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.