Alarie Tennille


Early nomads traveled light,
carried only essentials across the vast steppes.
Home nowhere, home everywhere,

grasslands and sky framing their world.
One camp looked like the next. People
gathered near the fire, told stories,

sang, beat primitive drums –
treasured moments free from work.
Then came the kobyz, the first

stringed instrument played with a bow.
Who would think of a bow?
Perhaps the very shamans who credited

the kobyz with healing powers,
like the calming purr of a cat or whispers
of those before us. The magic begins

with a single piece of wood, usually
alder, from a tree long accustomed
to melodies sweeping across the plains.

Next it’s hollowed out to make a womb
for the familiar sounds: shrill wind, howling
wolves, fear, and longing – tones both felt

and heard from its two strings: yin
and yang, heaven and earth, sky
and ground, a harmony of opposites.

Secret meanings pulse through our veins
in a language we cannot translate,
yet somehow understand.

Alarie Tennille was a pioneer coed at the University of Virginia, where
she earned her degree in English, Phi Beta Kappa key, and black belt in
Feminism. Now retired, she enjoys more time with her husband, assorted
cats, and poetry. She serves on the Emeritus Board and Programming
Committee of The Writers Place in Kansas City, MO. In January 2022, her
new book, Three A.M. at the Museum, was selected as Director’s Pick at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Nominations for both a Pushcart Prize and Best of Net made 2022 a very happy year. Please visit her at