Comfort in Small Rooms
by Marcia Popp

Recipient of the 2008 Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award

Winning Poem:

comfort in small rooms
when i was very young i slept alone in the smallest bedroom in my grandfather’s house tucked away at the end of a long hall where I could hear the owls call sometimes in summer just as there was no more light it seemed as if the earth were being swallowed by a giant so i crawled out of bed felt my way down the hallway to my grandmother’s bedroom where a breeze drifted through the open windows billowing the filmy white curtains over her bed like gentle ghosts she reached out and pulled me onto the cool clean sheets i touched her face felt her smile and lay there knowing she never went to sleep i would be safe but some nights she wandered the house in the dark guarding every door so i tiptoed down the hall to my grandfather’s bedroom where he sat up in a big chair most of the night with angina i crawled up into his bed and slept because he was keeping watch i did not even hear the window-rattling whistling steam locomotives that rumbled on the hour through their small town one night last week when i was sixty-seven the light began to fade the walls were too close in my mind i got into my car drove eighty miles to the place where my grandparents are tucked in under bent willows and cottonwood found their stone and lay down between them comforted by their nearness i stayed safe with them through the night on the cool clean grass hearing an owl call i touched their faces felt them smile.

About the Author

Marcia Popp has been an elementary teacher in the Evanston, Illinois schools, has taught in special education classrooms, and was Director of Teacher Education and Chair of the Division of Education at McKendree College, where she taught elementary methods courses, children’s literature and educational psychology. Popp is the recipient of several teaching excellence awards including the Grandy award, the Sears Award for Teaching Excellence, and the St. Louis Metropolitan Area “Those Who Excel” award.


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