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About this Poem 

"The Tatters began with a meditation on the perfect pigeon feathers that land on East Village sidewalks in New York. From these feathers I began to note the interactions between nature, the human world, and technology. I began to make visible the threads that connect us, city dwellers, during this transition from the past (print culture) to the uncertain future of cultural literacy and humanity." —Brenda Coultas

from “The Tatters”

Brenda Coultas

I can get at the drawings or language of making things: instruction manuals for building fires or cookbooks for explosives or poisons. I have found out why we stand tall and who the commanders of the great ships are. I have learned the story of the microscope and of birds which dress in blue and purple, of how to read a sea shell. I have read of Monsters of the Land and Sky, from the crumbles of a 19th century text. I commit to memory views from penny postcards of sights I’ve never seen and actions I never witnessed; like the great swans of Long Island in the wild, or the skyline of Manhattan as seen from the deck of a paddlewheel steamer. I am impressed by cancelled postcards from the plains of a sod house or from a museum of corn.

Copyright @ 2014 by Brenda Coultas. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2014.

Brenda Coutlas

Brenda Coultas

Brenda Coultas was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, on September 18, 1958. She graduated from the University of Southern Indiana and earned an MFA from Naropa Institute (now Naropa University).

Coultas is the author of four poetry collections, includingThe Tatters (Wesleyan University Press, 2014), The Marvelous Bones of Time (Coffee House Press, 2008), and A Handmade Museum (Coffee House Press, 2003).

by this poet


Blackened tea kettle like one I have at home, couch with living man, eyes closed, his dog and runny dog shit on sidewalk. Cardboard boxes, lamp shade, the filter basket of a drip-o-later, a wooden serving tray with loose bottom. A mouse's body with eyes open and intact. Styrofoam peanuts. 2 balsa wood whiskey