Poem of the Week, by Laura Gilpin

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Whenever I pass a baby on the sidewalk our eyes meet and hold. Babies turn their heads to keep holding that gaze, sometimes all the way to the end of the block. They want to examine me, so they do. This is what I most appreciate about babies; that acceptance of themselves and what they want.

My dog is also like this. When he wants his belly rubbed, his throat stroked, he flops next to me and pushes his nose into me until I pet him. He’s taught himself how to speak what he must think is Human: low mutterings, high warbles that all mean touch me touch me touch me. He too knows what he wants and is unafraid to ask for it.

I don’t exactly know why babies and dogs and this poem make me want to cry, but they do.


The Two-Headed Calf, by Laura Gilpin

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.

For more information on Laura Gilpin, please click here.


Poem of the Week, by Langston Hughes

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Here in my neighborhood, in the wake of another shooting of a Black man, choppers circle nightly, protests happen nightly, and stores and restaurants keep their window plywood boards on standby.

Tension runs high. I scan the streets for cars and trucks with out of state plates driving erratically, zipping the wrong way down my one-way street, the way they did a year ago, when under cover of darkness men searched through our gardens for incendiaries planted earlier.

There’s plenty of racism to go around in Minnesota and there are also nationwide white supremacy groups happy to help the movement. I loved Langston Hughes’s poems as a child and I love them still. Last night I walked past a SWAT car filled with police officers at the end of my block and thought of this poem.


I, too, sing America
     – Langston Hughes

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes,
but I laugh,
and eat well,
and grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
when company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

Besides, they’ll see how beautiful
I am
and be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

For more information about Langston Hughes, please click here.


Poem of the Week, by Eileen Myles

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

The way my dog places his paws on my shoulders and looks into my eyes. That day last week when the rain blew in and the temperature dropped 29 degrees in twenty minutes. How coffee beans smell when they’re ground fresh at dawn. The way the man behind the cheese counter yesterday said Excuse me, I just have to tell you I love your hair and then hugged himself with happiness. These purple Dr. Seussian flowers. This bowl of crisp popcorn. How extravagantly the mint spreads beneath the baby apple tree. How the earth begins to rise beneath the car from the Dakotas westward, like the crest and slope of the planet’s chest. The way the calm baby in the stroller this morning silently turned to keep my gaze all the way down the block. I wish I could give all of this to all of you.

At a Waterfall, Reykjavik, by Eileen Myles

I still feel like
the world
is a piece
of bread

I’m holding
out half
to you.

For more information about Eileen Myles, please click here.

Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Philip Larkin

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Hey Driz. Drizzle. Z’Drazzle. Drazzle. Draz. It’s been just over a week since we held hands in your living room and talked and laughed and cried. We both knew it would be our last conversation.

Daisy the dog kept watch from the porch. I don’t know who has her now, but I know it’s someone wonderful, because you would have made sure of that.

Last night I lay awake thinking about Grandpa, that past, ancient dog of yours, the one you cared for with such devotion that you spent hours every night —hours–wandering your backyard with him as he stumbled around the perimeter, looking for something that never appeared.

You had so much more patience than I ever will, Z’drizzle.

To your students, you were that teacher, the teacher they’ll remember their entire lives, the teacher who saw them, who knew them, who understood them in a way no one else did. I may as well have been one of your students.

Remember our greasy breakfasts and love of diners? Remember how you introduced me to Al’s? Remember our mutual adoration of the State Fair?

How about the day you brought a few of your favorite students all the way to Minneapolis to meet me? You taught them to love my first novel. Remember her, you said, pretending I couldn’t hear you. She’s going to be famous. Then you took them all out for pizza in the big city.

Remember that time we sailed around the streets of Elbow Lake in that giant old convertible of yours, when I was the author for the author event you yourself had organized and we were already fifteen minutes late? You were always late. This didn’t seem to bother you or anyone else either. Maybe because everyone loved you so much.

Did it surprise me that the Go Fund Me organized by your students surpassed its $100 goal by over $12,000? It did not. Did it surprise me that you never mentioned a word of it to me? It did not.

Remember when you went surfing for the first time, on that trip to southern California? I never heard you talk like that. Never saw that look in your eyes. You loved surfing in a way that changed you. I remember trying to figure out how you, on a rural teacher’s salary, could somehow afford to go surfing in California more often.

The only novel of mine you didn’t know practically by heart is the last one, the one I dedicated to you, Z’draz, long before we knew you were sick. You never read that one because Dammit, you always make me cry, Alison McGhee, and I have to save my tears until I’m through this and can handle another Alison McGhee book.

Z’driz, you always called me by my full name. In every single conversation we ever had, including the last one, you would at some point pause, shake your head, and say Alison McGhee, with this look in your eyes. As if I was some kind of wonder. Which I’m not, but guess what? You were.

Zdrazil loved my writing, I wept to a friend the other night. He loved me. It was like I couldn’t do anything wrong in his eyes.

Oh my beautiful friend. I will miss you forever.

You told me that last day you were scared to die and I told you I didn’t trust people who weren’t. We laughed about that, a little. Four days later you crossed through that door.

I’m going to write about you, John Zdrazil, I said, when you couldn’t keep your eyes open anymore and I knew it was time to go. And you know I mean it because I’m using your full and proper name.

Ordinarily that would’ve made you laugh, but you just looked me in the eye and nodded slowly. Then your eyes filled.

Write me a poem, you said.

John Zdrazil, that is the one and only request you ever made of me. Write me a poem. I drove the three hours home and wrote you a series of haiku then and there, so I could text them to you before it was too late. We were out of time and we both knew it. We’re all out of time, which is why we should be careful of each other, and kind, the way you always were, John.

The Mower, by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found   
a hedgehog jammed up against the blades,   
killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.   
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world   
unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence   
is always the same; we should be careful

of each other, we should be kind   
while there is still time.

For more information about Philip Larkin, please click here.

Words by Winter: my new podcast