Nebraska 25: ‘Walking at Noon Near the Burlington Depot in Lincoln, Nebraska’ by Ted Kooser

On the rat-gray dock
of the candy factory,
workers in caps and aprons
as white as divinity
sit on their heels and smoke
in the warm spring sunlight
thick with butterscotch.

In the next block down,
outside a warehouse,
its big doors rolled and bolted
over the dusty hush
of pyramids of cartons,
two pickets in lettered vests
call back and forth, their voices
a clatter of echoes.

A girl sits in her car,
an old tan Oldsmobile
broken down over its tires,
and plays the radio.

On the grill of a semi
smelling of heat and distance,
one tattered butterfly.

And an empty grocery cart
from Safeway, miles from here,
leans into its reflection
in a blackened window, a little
piano recital of chrome
for someone to whom all things
were full of sadness.

 

Wonderful, unconnected snapshots of five observations about an ordinary town on an ordinary day, made special by their poetic honesty and simplicity, but also that closing stanza where the line ‘a little/piano recital of chrome’ suddenly shines, and just before the sudden melancholia is referenced.

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