Published on Academy of American Poets (

Centering the House

All night Kansas
the lungs of the continent
takes a sip of the galaxy

swirling stars and barbed wire
sofabeds and willows
books and doors banging open 

signs disappear whole towns
ditch themselves in the countryside
I stir the coffee to center the house

the place our mothers and fathers
and theirs and theirs passed through
their aprons strung on telephone wires

this tunnel of wind this trial        
makes trees throw back their heads                                               
and hair on our arms stand up        

we’re nothing but breath on its way through the woods


From The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Wyatt Townley. Used with permission of the author.


Wyatt Townley

Wyatt Townley was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and received a BFA in dance from Purchase College at the State University of New York–Purchase. 

She is the author of four collections of poetry: Rewriting the Body (forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin University Press); The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011), winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award; The Breathing Field (Little, Brown & Co., 2002); and Perfectly Normal (The Smith, 1990). She is also the author of Yoganetics (HarperCollins, 2002).

Townley served as the poet laureate of Kansas from 2013 to 2015 and remains the state’s poet laureate emeritus.  She teaches yoga and lives in Kansas.


Rewriting the Body (forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin University Press)
The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011)
The Breathing Field (Little, Brown & Co., 2002)
Perfectly Normal (The Smith, 1990)

Yoganetics (HarperCollins, 2002)

Date Published: 2017-03-22

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