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American Life in Poetry: Second Tour

Psychologists must have a word for it, the phenomenon of shifting the focus of sadness from the source of that sadness to something else. Here's a fine poem on this subject by Penelope Scambly Schott, who lives in Oregon.

Second Tour

While my husband packed to fly back to Vietnam,

this time as a tourist instead of a soldier,

I drove to the zoo to say goodbye to the musk oxen

who were being shipped out early next morning

to Tacoma. We were getting lions instead.

When I got there, it was too easy to park.

The zoo was closing early so they wouldn't let me in.

I went back to my car and slid into the driver's seat.

Sobs tore from deep in my chest, I who had never

seen a musk ox and never cared until now.

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 ©2006 by William Trowbridge, from his most recent book of poems, Ship of Fool, Red Hen Press, 2011. 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.