Patricia Traxler




2003 Touchstone Interview


Poet Index

Kansas Poems

Poetry Insight

Lesson Plans

Links & Groups


Patricia TraxlerPatricia Traxler is the author of four published volumes of poetry, including Forbidden Words, (University of Missouri) and her newest poetry collection, Naming the Fires (Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn, NY, January 2016).


Her fiction and poetry have appeared in such publications as The Boston Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Ms. Magazine, The Los Angeles Times Literary Supplement, The San Francisco Chronicle, The American Voice, Slate Internet Magazine, Agni, The Kenyon Review, New Letters, and The Boston Phoenix Literary Supplement.


Traxler’s poetry and prose have been included in such anthologies as Best American Poetry '94, edited by A.R. Ammons, (Scribner); The Ring of Words (poetry), edited and introduced by Andrew Motion (Daily Telegraph and Sutton Publishing, Ltd., London, ‘98); The Handbook of Heartbreak (poetry), edited by Robert Pinsky (Morrow, ‘98); Night Errands  (essays), edited by Roderick Townley (University of Pittsburgh Press, ‘98); and Grandmothers: Granddaughters Remember  (essays), edited by M. Bouvard (Syracuse‘98).            


Writing Honors, Fiction and Poetry, include:


   •Two Bunting Poetry Fellowships at Radcliffe College (1990-91 and 1991-92)

   •1991 Ploughshares Cohen Award for Best Poem of the Year

   •1993 Writer's Voice of New York City, Short Fiction Award

   •1994 Kansas Literary Fellowship in Poetry

   •1996 Hugo Poet-in-Residence, University of Montana

   •1997 Thurber Poet-in-Residence, Thurber House, Columbus, Ohio

   •1997 Hackney Literary Award for Short Fiction

   •1998 Short Fiction Award of Georgia State University

   •1998 Pablo Neruda Award for Poetry, Nimrod Magazine


Traxler has been a visiting lecturer at many U.S. universities including Radcliffe College, the University of California San Diego, Emerson College, Utah State University, The Ohio State University, The University of Montana, Kansas University Lawrence, and San Diego State University.


She is also the author of a novel, Blood (St. Martin’s Press, 2001/02; Piatkus, UK, 2002/03) and in Swedish, Spanish, and German translations.

Last Hike Before Leaving Montana


Send forth Thy light and Thy truth. Late winter,

last hike before leaving Montana, and it’s like

finding a diamond; now I don’t want to go.

I sit in the dirt and put my hands in your tracks.

For the first time in a long time I don’t doubt. Now

I know I always knew you were here. You are

the beginning of disclosure, the long-felt presence


Suddenly incarnate. Behind me my friend warns, If we

see the bear, get into a fetal position. No problem,

I tell her, I’m always in a fetal position--I was born

in a fetal position. Did you know, she says, the body

of a shaved bear looks exactly like a human man? 

I skip a stone, feel a sudden bloat of grief, then laugh.

I ask her, Who would shave a bear? We climb


Further up Rattlesnake Creek, watch winter sun glitter

off dark water. No matter how high we go I look higher.

Sometimes absence can prove presence. That’s not exactly

faith, I know. All day, everywhere, I feel you near at hand. 

There’s so much to understand, and everything to prove. Up

high the air is thin and hard, roars in the ears like love.


(Published in Slate Internet Magazine)


Night Bloom



Midnight.  The face of a fan turns

here to there in the bedroom's

dark.  Beneath just a sheet

from time to time their same knees

touch, and nothing

more.  They've come apart

from what they knew, or thought, for all those

years.  Lately in daylight she traces

a narrative of containment, changes

the subject, stipulates needs.  He noodles

piano keys, answers his phone, acquiesces.

Nights grow huge with history and the swell

of unspent language.  Her dreams come in mumbles

and starts;  he sleeps on the edge, waking often. 

Outside in a breeze, the jessamine bush he planted

a dozen years ago beneath their window has

come back into bloom; its pale flesh opens to night

air, awash in shadow's grace.  He knows it, feels it

there, but doesn't dare take in the scent

of its cruel, crucial dream.  Midnight now.  The face

of the fan turns here to there in their dark

room while he and she breathe slowly in

and out, take comfort in the things they know

from memory, while all the while a faint rhythm

still locked in the pulse suggests a time, a turn,

a tune, some long irretrievable music

they once had almost by heart.


(Published in The Boston Review
and in Anthology of Magazine Verse
& Yearbook of American Poetry, Monitor Press)

Articles of Faith


What about these jonquil bulbs that bear and bloom

year after year beside the porch, as if the hand

that planted them decades ago were still

in the world to hail their bounty? And what

of the doe who comes from the woods to the edge

of the north field every evening, standing

calm beside the rude highway that cuts

through her heaven, as if nothing were there

but the silence of wheat. Not knowledge,

but belief. Or our voices leaping back

and forth over the wire, conjuring

presence, as if distance and time and a life

were nothing. (Think how time must prove itself

constantly through movement, inventing observable

change.) Not having, but desiring. Your palm

on my belly, fingers warm over hipbone, pulse

of your wrist twinned in the cells of my skin. Not

photograph, but memory. Consider this: the Word

made flesh. Oh, I know what love is. I once saw

the heart still beating in the carcass of a butchered hen.


(Published in New Letters)


Death of a Distant In-Law


We watched the deaf-mute buried

in his largest silence. Earlier

in the relatives' chapel his family,

brought together there, nodded, smiled,

and whispered news of jobs and kids and cars,

catching up, while through the curtain drawn

to hide our tears, the preacher celebrated

This Man's Simplicity. This man. I thought of

family gatherings through the years, this distant

in-law in a corner chair somewhere, watching

the silent movie of our stir. Sometimes

he moved his lips, touched his useless ears,

cajoling; large eyes looming like dark

closets not sorted through in years.

Now he lay like marble, big hands clasped

across his heart, and finally his eyes were closed,

beneath the lids that unnamed knowledge

stored and locked away.


(Published in Agni Review
and Best American Poetry ’94, A.R. Ammons)









All poetry on this page
© by
Patricia Traxler, 2006

Back to Poet Index      Back To Top