Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate


The late Philip Booth of Castine, one of the most important poets of his generation, was known for his ability to compress meanings into a small space. In today’s poem he discusses the social reality of America in just 10 lines.


United States




All right, we are two nations.


Immaculate floors, ceilings broken

only by skylights, The insulated

walls, the soundless heat; and hidden

everywhere, a fan for every odor.


Of our two nations

that is one.

And you who will not

read this

presume you know the other.



Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1990 by Philip Booth. Reprinted from Selves, Penguin Books, 1990, by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, special assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at 207-228-8263 or [email protected]