Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg






Poet Index

Kansas Poems

Poetry Insight

Lesson Plans

Links & Groups

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, professor, and the author of five books, including three collections of poetry: Animals in the House (Woodley Memorial Press), Reading the Body (Mammoth Press), and Lotís Wife (Woodley Memorial Press).  She is also the author of the award-winning Write Where You Are. Additionally, her poetry and prose have been published in dozens of literary journals and anthologies, and she has given poetry readings and workshops in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Caryn coordinates the Transformative Language Arts concentration at Goddard College, where she teaches.  She also facilitates writing workshops for people of many backgrounds, including for people living with cancer and other serious illness, for low-income women, and for adults in transition.  A certified poetry therapist, Caryn serves on the executive board of the National Association for Poetry Therapy, and on the steering committee of the Transformative Language Arts Network.

Caryn is recipient of numerous awards, including the 2006-08 Kansas Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the 2005 Rocky Mountain National Park artist-in-residency, the City of Lawrence Phoenix Award for Artistic Achievement, and the National Association for Poetry Therapy education award.  She also gives frequent presentations, including a reading in early 2006 in Cuernavaca, Mexico with poet Ekiwah Adler-Belendez. Please see www.writewhereyouare.org for updates on Carynís workshops, readings, and retreats.

Also see: carynmirriamgoldberg.com   150 Kansas Poems  




Here everything is a list of its details:

the surface of crow feather where it bows,

or echo of whippoorwill through the closed window

over the bed.  The chiggers and the slow-creeping

cedar trees, milkweed webbed with spittlebug,

and the grass above and below ground,

mirroring out from a single point

of root and longing.


I'm landed here, in the center of something

not my own doing, and although I keep thinking

I'm alone, I'm dying, I'm afraid,

I'm making all that up.

The man I love is coming out of the woods,

the long crescent of his body closer, bowing to touch

something, say its name.


When he stands back up, he walks slowly to show me

whatever we think of love is just the aerial view

that tells you nothing compared to the soft green stems

that curl and fall with the wind, compared to how each step

across the grass is a form of falling

out of and into what losses make life possible.

The quick flashes, like the sun balancing

on the lip of the horizon right before

it goes out, like that moment the field golds

everything opaque, like how love strips us

out of the stories we have for love.


 Originally published in Midwest Quarterly




What Would Happen If You Walked Here?


What would happen if you opened to something

so totally beyond human that it dissolved your borders

into bluestem?  What if it rained and you got wet?

What if you understood not just that the earth tilted

but that it tilted right through your spine

and thatís why you occasionally fall over?


Nothing prepares you for the real.

Thereís no journey out of this except the one

that separates your bones from your thoughts,

your tendons from the lines of your desire.


In the giant mouth of the dark,

in the opening screen of the dark,

in the bottom of the pot of the dark,

is the dark that isnít so dark.


In the myriad call of meadowlark layered on siren

of coyote upon clanging of wind in cottonwood tree

is also the sound of no sound, too.

Nothing can prepare you for the speed of the universe.

Nothing can steady you enough to absorb even the fact

that light travels millions of years to get to your eyes,

that the dissolved dust of stars are your thoughts

and your thinking, that the sky is so big, that the dirt is

made of bones and breath, that thereís nothing heavier

than the ocean, that thereís no such thing as exact replicas

in the seasons, and that seasons pour through us like rain

or dust whether weíre paying attention or not,

that a rabbit can outrun you in your prime, that language

is only partially made of words, that the earth cannot help

but to keep recycling you into something better.


Magnolia Tree in Kansas 


This is the tree that breaks

into blossom too early each March,

killing its flowers.  This is the tree

that hums anyway in its pool of fallen

petals, pink as moonlight.  Not a bouquet

on a stick.  Not a lost mammal in the clearing

although it looks like both with its explosions

of rosy boats Ė illuminated, red-edged.

Not a human thing but closer to what we might be

than the careful cedar or snakeskin sycamore.

It cries.  It opens.  It submits.  In the pinnacle

of its stem and the pits of its fruitless fruit,

it knows how a song can break the singer.

In the brass of its wind, it sings anyway.

Tree of all breaking.  Tree of all upsidedown.

Tree that hurts in its bones and doesnít care.

Tree of the first exhalation

landing and swaying, perfume and death,

all arms and no legs.  Tree that never

learns to hold back.

Originally published in Lawrence Journal-World






I live just south of the poetic,

where the glaciers stopped short, sloped down

to nothing.  Now low-flying catfish line

the brown rivers while the valleys go flat

as clavicles edging into erosion and horizon. 

The grass, obsessive as always,

runs itself oblivious,

and the cedar trees wave,

one arm, then another,

as if under water.


I live where the sky, dense and

exhausted, complains all smug and blue

that nothing ever happens here,

and leans asleep on its elbows in the corner. 

It dreams what we mean: that we can only

locate ourselves in the weather that maps us

but canít be mapped ahead of itself.


Here thereís no way to know whatís coming,

or whatís gone, the big bluestem being as tall as it is.

The wind comes.  The wind goes.  The sun climbs

around the corner and returns at its appointed time. 

The windows shake in the storm that can pick up a field,

undress it, place it back down.


When I try to say where I am, I can only

point to the rushing everywhere

the mind tries to be still,

and in that wind, the stillness

that holds a single glance of switchgrass

up to the light before letting it go.

Originally published in Planet Drum Pulse






All poetry on this page
© by
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2006 


Back to Poet Index      Back To Top