By Ellen Bryant Voigt b. 1943
In the still morning when you move   
toward me in sleep for love,   
I dream of

an island where long-stemmed cranes,   
serious weather vanes,   
turn slowly on one

foot. There the dragonfly folds   
his mica wings and rides   
the tall reed

close as a handle. The hippo yawns,   
nods to thick pythons,
slack and drowsy, who droop down

like untied sashes
from the trees. The brash   
hyenas do not cackle

and run but lie with their paws   
on their heads like dogs.   
The lazy crow’s caw

falls like a sigh. In the field   
below, the fat moles build   
their dull passage with an old

instinct that needs
no light or waking; its slow beat   
turns the hand in sleep

as we turn toward each other   
in the ripe air of summer,   
before the change of weather,

before the heavy drop   
of the apples.

Ellen Bryant Voigt, “Tropics” from Claiming Kin. Copyright © 1976 by Ellen Bryant Voigt. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: Claiming Kin (1976)

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Poet Ellen Bryant Voigt b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Summer, Trees & Flowers, Animals

Occasions Anniversary


Ellen Bryant Voigt has lived in Vermont for many years; she spent her childhood in rural Virginia, where she grew up on her family’s farm. Her poems traverse the worlds of motherhood, the rural South, family, and music. Her 1995 collection Kyrie: Poems is a book-length sonnet sequence exploring the lives of people affected by the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. Poet Edward Hirsch wrote of her early book, Claiming Kin (1976), . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Summer, Trees & Flowers, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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