Ted Kooser’s Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrision, is a deeply moving poetic mediation on life and death. Kooser, who was recovering from cancer when he wrote these poems, invites the reader in on his ruminations on existence and its inevitable end through a series of early morning winter walks around his farm.
Kooser is particularly skilled at taking animals and inanimate objects an investing them with mood and inclination. His world is alive with intention and meaning. With this marvelous trick of his poetic voice, he bridges the gap between nature’s seeming indifference to human fate and our deep need to be understood by the wider world.
The effect is mesmerizing. Kooser creates a world where a human being and nature can share a type of rare poetic language. We can understand each other through the signs and gestures we both make.
Here is one of my favorite poems in the collection (which does not have the elements discussed above):
Dark and still at 5:30 a.m.
Some mornings, very early, I put on
my dead father’s brown corduroy robe,
more than twenty years old, its lining torn,
the sleeves a little too big for me,
and walk through the house
with my father, groping our way
through the chilly, darkened rooms
not wanting to wake our wives with a light
and feeling on our outstretched fingers,
despite the familiar order of each room,
despite the warmth of the women sleeping near
the breath of emptiness.