By Ellen Bryant Voigt b. 1943
The Bone-man lives in a stucco   
house. He ticks his heels

on the cold terrazzo floor.   
He parks his ragtruck

in the yard, instructs his crew   
on the white telephone.

I am training my dog
to attack the red-capped hunter

bearing his long package.
I am training the tethered jay

to cry out against
the killer who cracks the latch.

On the open map, the road
to my house bulges like a vein.

He takes a train, he rents   
a car, he lurches in

with an open fly. Sweet Eve   
was just the Farmer’s Daughter,

he wooed her with a wormy apple.   
He’s a dirty joke, he’s

always everybody’s last   
lover, he’s a regular

can of worms—you wry Medusa,
I am a mongoose staring you down.

Ellen Bryant Voigt, “Preparation” 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 Home Life, Pets, Death, Living, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Couplet


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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SUBJECT Home Life, Pets, Death, Living, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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