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


Ellen Bryant Voigt grew up on her family's farm in rural Virginia. She earned her BA from Converse College and MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her most recent collections include Headwaters (2013), Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006, and Shadow of Heaven (2002).

Bryant Voigt studied piano when she was a child, not turning to poetry until a friend in college introduced her to poems by E.E. Cummings and Rilke. She . . .

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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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