*Featured Poet: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg


Years mean nothing in the mouth of the land
we walk in fall of ‘84, row by row searching
for Ken’s brown wallet in just-plowed dirt.
We are so young, already falling in love
with the notion of this place turning from
corn to big bluestem. Already our touch
heated just by looking across the field.

Who knew how our eyes would change color,
ability, the detail less exact, the perspective wider.
We save each other for better things, wear out
worn-out cars, make three children, love
and bury dogs and tree frogs, cry in wild anguish
when the oncologist says cancer, when my father
dies, then yours, and the night the cat vanishes
into a hungry coyote. It is all here,

the dream of the land sometimes tipped into
nightmares of all that could be lost to bulldozers
breaking the prairie and us, impossible to keep
the hunger for money from swallowing habitat
and all its hidden or chirping inhabitants.

We pledge ourselves to this story
of a single blue heron swimming the sky
that reads the land’s moisture and drought,
to the painted turtles hibernating underfoot,
to the cedars clumping together to hold
their own against ice storms or in the soft
fingers of a surprise summer rain.

We talk to banks, lawyer, ancestors, lightning
in the middle of the night, and keep returning
to what we must do to save ourselves
until we find it all, old wallet, the patience
we never believed we could bear, the eye
of the needle and the thread to use it.


Of where you got hurt.
Wait until there is no danger
anymore. Never was, only
what/who passed through
with their heavy backpacks
of terror and self-hatred,
starving for more weight.

The ground itself can’t hold,
doesn’t hold, hungry ghosts.
Nothing can hold them.
That’s why they’re hungry.

But you are no ghost.
Well-fed by gravity you’re in
agreement with on packed dirt
and smoothed pebbles, fallen
acorns, and walnut leaves
curled by drought.

You are here, tailbone to earth,
pelvic floor to grass, chest tilted
toward the pine-filtered light
of late afternoon while wind
rearranges its narrative
from start and stop
to sit and wait. It is all
the same book that isn’t
a book of where you live.

Wait. Breathe,
Start reading.


May your lungs recognize air
as an old friend. May your clavicle lift
just a wing higher to the dragonflies.

May the wind overtake the horses
pounding through your mind
on bare ground in the desert of August.

May your belly come home to its nest
in your center, no predators in sight.
May your eyes track the migration of light
and your shoulders give up the war.

See, the mountains aren’t clouds
but something much more solid
than your lacks, charms, or stories
worn to decaying leaves.

You don’t need to force
your blistered toes through gales
of gray rock and wind-bent trees.

This trail meant for you,
even if it doesn’t yet exist,
will catch you when you fall.


Park your car at the lip of the road.
Toss your keys into the fallen big bluestem.

Walk the gravel, some rocks
pointing against the routine of feet.

Be careful, even in boots. Feel the rise
of the field in your thighs, the long ascent
that shows you flat is never actually flat.

Come to a sense of equilibrium that isn’t.
Wait here. Wind. Grasshoppers. Too much
heat. More uplift. A sudden flock, heartbeat
exploding from the center of the cedar.

Listen with your eyes closed.
Open your hands to speak in the curve
of air. Stop departing or arriving.

The question itself is a waning
or waxing moon behind the clouds.
Stop waiting for the light to answer.

Poet’s Statement:

I’m so grateful to Mockingheart Review for featuring my poems and me for this issue, especially since
these are new poems coming from new ground in my writing and old ground from where I live. It’s no
wonder that considering my life’s focus in recent years on helping saving a family farm and finding
healing and treatment for a rare cancer of the eye that these poems are about healing, place, and

For well over thirty-five years, my husband Ken Lassman (an occupational therapy and ecological
writer) and I have worked, prayed, strategized, planned, and invoked all help from lawyers to land trust
experts to the ancestors of the land where we live to save the 130 acres where we live. In December of
2020, we were able to actually buy the land, which was greatly at risk of development, against all odds.
Thanks to astonishing friends and family supporting us for years, bank loans, legal help, and sheer
magic, we saved a place that has saved us again and again. “Saving the Farm” is a poetic distillation of
that rite of passage, and we’re now close to placing this land into a conservation reserve to preserve the
tallgrass prairie we’ve been planting and tending for years, emerging woodlands, and open space as a
wildlife corridor and family legacy.

“Sit on the Ground” is also a poem of being where I am, tailbone to earth, and listening deeply to what
I can perceive from one particular perch in real time. “It is all/ the same book that isn’t/ a book of
where you live” speaks to the unfolding narrative of seasonal tilts and time shifts, composing a story
that’s out of bounds of what we can tame or name.

“Healing Spell” comes from finding solace, clarity, and peace where we are. I think part of my tone
here was influenced by Ursula LeGuin’s marvelous poem, “Initiation Song For the Finder’s Lodge,”
that tell us to “Walk mindfully, well loved one.” It’s also drawn from something my therapist said to
me: “You will find the path meant for you,” especially in its ending stanza: “This trail meant for you,/
even if it doesn’t yet exist,/ will catch you when you fall.” Focusing on breathing into greater
expansion comes from a decades-long yoga practice and some great teachers along the way.

Likewise, “How to Arrive Here” echoes from clearing away what distracts us from being where we are
so that we can feel the fresh and refreshing air of a particular place in a particular time. My ending was
influenced by Rainer Maria Rilke’s call to live our ways into the question when I wrote “The question
itself is a waning/ or waxing moon behind the clouds./ Stop waiting for the light to answer.”

As I write this on a rainy day in January, I’m reminded to stop waiting for the light to answer—the sun
to come back out, the days to lengthen again—and instead take in, even in our ailing and chaotic world,
the gifts for our senses and sensibilities right now: the smell and sound of rain, the reddening grasses of
the field leaning over toward the damp ground, the spread of old and new Osage orange and
cottonwood tree branches, the quiet and fullness of this winter moment where I can again and again
take refuge into reading and writing poetry.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected PoemsMiriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she is a beloved writing workshop facilitator and writing and Right Livelihood coach. She loves life-giving collaborations: she offers YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. She offers weekly “Care Packages for a Creative Life” through her Patreon page, and you can find her blog, “Everyday Magic” at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com