The Green Stamp Book; Sally’s Hair

detail from an ad for broadcast tv 1950

Advertisement for Broadcast Television, 1950 (detail)


The Green Stamp Book

by Susan Wheeler


Child in the thick of yearning. Doll carted and pushed
like child. The aisles purport opportunities —

looking up, the women’s chins, the straight rows
of peas and pretzels, Fizzies’ foils, hermetic

boxes no one knows. I’ll get it! What thing therein
— bendy straws, powder blue pack Blackjack gum —

will this child fix upon? On TV, women with grocery carts
careen down aisles to find expensive stuff. Mostly,

this means meat. This, then, is a life. This, a life
that’s woven wrong and, woven once, disbraided, sits

like Halloween before a child, disguised in its red
Santa suit, making its lap loom the poppy field

Dorothy wants to bed. Can I have and the song’s begun.
O world spotted through more frugal legs. O world.



Sally’s Hair

by John Koethe


It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.


I took the train back from Poughkeepsie to New York
And in the Port Authority, there at the Suburban Transit window,
She asked, “Is this the bus to Princeton?”—which it was.
“Do you know Geoffrey Love?” I said I did. She had the blondest hair,
Which fell across her shoulders, and a dress of almost phosphorescent blue.
She liked Ayn Rand. We went down to the Village for a drink,
Where I contrived to miss the last bus to New Jersey, and at 3 a.m. we
Walked around and found a cheap hotel I hadn’t enough money for


And fooled around on its dilapidated couch. An early morning bus
(She’d come to see her brother), dinner plans and missed connections
And a message on his door about the Jersey shore. Next day
A summer dormitory room, my roommates gone: “Are you,” she asked,
“A hedo­nist?” I guessed so. Then she had to catch her plane.
Sally—Sally Roche. She called that night from Florida,
And then I never heard from her again. I won­der where she is now,
Who she is now. That was thirty-seven years ago.


And I’m too old to be surprised again. The days are open,
Life conceals no depths, no mysteries, the sky is everywhere,
The leaves are all ablaze with light, the blond light
Of a summer afternoon that made me think again of Sally’s hair.

El, 64th Street, New York, 1955

William Klein, El, 64th Street, New York, 1955



On October 16th, 2012 at 6pm, Susan Wheeler and John Koethe will be reading new poems at Labyrinth Books,      122 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ. The reading is free and open to the public.