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American Life in Poetry: Market Day

By Ted Kooser

Our wars come home, sooner or later. Judith Harris lives in Washington, DC, and in this poem gives us a veteran of Iraq back among the ordinary activities of American life.

End of Market Day

At five, the market is closing.

Burdock roots, parsley, and rutabagas

are poured back into the trucks.

The antique dealer breaks down his tables.

Light dappled, in winter parkas

shoppers hunt for bargains:

a teapot, or costume jewelry,

a grab bag of rubbishy vegetables for stew.

Now twilight, the farmer's wife

bundled in her tweed coat and pocket apron

counts out her cash from a metal box,

and nods to her grown-up son

back from a tour in Iraq,

as he waits in the station wagon

with the country music turned way up,

his prosthetic leg gunning the engine.

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 ©2009 by Judith Harris. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.