Wyatt Townley






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Wyatt Townley is the Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her work has been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR, featured by Ted Kooser in his American Life in Poetry column, and published in journals ranging from The Paris Review to Newsweek.


She won a Master Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the Kansas Arts Commission to complete her latest book of poems, The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press), selected as a Kansas Notable Book. Other books of poetry include The Breathing Field (Little, Brown) and Perfectly Normal (The Smith).


Wyatt served as a frequent literature panelist for the Kansas Arts Commission and in 2003 was invited to help establish the State Poet Laureate position. A founding board member of The Writers Place, and for years a visiting author with Young Audiences, she serves on the board of the Kansas Alliance for the Arts in Education.


The confluence of poetry and poetry-in-motion has shaped Wyatt’s life. Formerly a dancer, she has taught yoga for over thirty years and is the founder of Yoganetics®, a therapeutic system that has spread to ten countries. HarperCollins published her book on the method, Yoganetics, deemed an “Editor’s Choice” by Yoga Journal. (www.yoganetics.com; www.WyattTownley.com)





It takes a lifetime

to shed our skin. 

Take a lesson: 


The snake slides out

the maple shakes off its propellers

and hair by hair we follow


like Hansel and Gretel

dropping what we can.

The cicada sings


only after leaving

its shell on the tree

just as the poem


unwinds down the page

losing its earrings,

its shoes on the stairs.


Originally Published in The North American Review

Also published in The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press)






You’ve left a hole

the size of the sky

in the chair across the table


in the chasm of the closet

your shoes hold the shape

of every step we took 


through the seven rooms

of a world with no language

but that of moving


on macadam and the miles

of velvet earth before rainfall

between rows of corn


and up the curving drive

until they landed beside

the bed a black hole


you disappeared through

as I look for a sign

of you slivered with stars


your body without borders

nowhere and everywhere

in the wind moving through trees


on its way down the hall

to the back of my neck

in the chill you still send through me


and so I slip into the deep

abyss of your shoes

standing where you were last


pointing in two directions

trusting the way forward                 

is also the way back


Originally Published in The Paris Review

Also published in The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press)



The Breathing Field


Between each vertebra

is the through line

of your life’s story,

where the setting sun

has burned all colors

into the cord.  Step


over.  Put on the dark

shirt of stars. 

A full moon rises

over the breathing field,

seeps into clover and the brown

lace of its roots

where insects are resting


their legs.  Take in the view.

So much is still

to be seen.  Get back

behind your back, behind

what is behind you. 


Originally Published in Yoga Journal
        and The Breathing Field (Little, Brown)




Prayer for a New Millennium


On the first evening

buzzing with the last

light that skids through everything,

let the body drink its deepest

breath, the lower back

spread like a constellation

with one lone star swerving.

Let the hands, lined with meteors,

open, releasing all they’ve held

coins, hammers, steering

wheels and the silken

faces of children to find

what on earth they really hold.

Let the crown of the head

move away from the shoulders

and into the distance

where another is waiting.

Let go of the forecast you heard

when you were younger

than the child now clattering

up the backstairs all

laughter and gasping

for what we’re here to do.

Look down.  Look at the stars.

We’re here so briefly, weather

with bones. 


Published in Southern Poetry Review,
     Prayers for a Thousand Years (HarperCollins)
        and The Breathing Field (Little, Brown)









 All poetry on this page
© by
Wyatt Townley, 2006 

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