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About this poet

Raised in California, Sandra McPherson received her B.A. at San Jose University and studied at the graduate level with Elizabeth Bishop and David Wagoner at the University of Washington. Her poetry collections include, A Visit to Civilization (Wesleyan University Press, 2002), The Edge Effect (1996), The Spaces Between Birds (1996), The God of Indeterminancy (1993), and The Year of Our Birth (1978), which was nominated for the National Book Award. She has also published nine chapbooks, including Beauty in Use (1997). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Southern Review and TriQuarterly.

Sandra McPherson's honors include two grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, three National Endowment of the Arts fellowships, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She has taught at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, and the Art of the Wild Conference. Her poetry was also featured in the PBS special, The Language of Life, hosted by Bill Moyers. She currently teaches English at the University of California at Davis.


Sandra McPherson, 1943
Orange is the single-hearted color. I remember
How I found them in a vein beside the railroad,
A bumble-bee fumbling for a foothold
While the poppies' petals flagged beneath his boot.

I brought three poppies home and two buds still sheathed.
I amputated them above the root. They lived on artlessly
Beside the window for a while, blazing orange, bearing me
No malice. Each four-fanned surface opened

To the light. They were bright as any orange grove.
I watched them day and night stretch open and tuck shut
With no roots to grip, like laboratory frogs' legs twitching
Or like red beheaded hens still hopping on sheer nerves.

On the third afternoon one bud tore off its green glove
And burst out brazen as Baby New Year.
Two other poppies dropped their petals, leaving four
Scribbly yellow streamers on a purple-brimmed and green

Conical cadaver like a New Year's hat.
I'd meant to celebrate with them, but they seemed
So suddenly tired, these aging ladies in crocheted
Shawl leaves. They'd once been golden as the streets

Of heaven, now they were as hollow.
They couldn't pull together for a last good-bye.
I had outlived them and had only their letters to read,
Fallen around the vase, saying they were sorry.

From Elegies for the Hot Season by Sandra McPherson. Copyright © 1970 by Sandra McPherson. First published by The Ecco Press in 1982. Reprinted by permission.

Sandra McPherson

Sandra McPherson

Raised in California, Sandra McPherson received her B.A. at San Jose University and

by this poet

I have enough retablos of visions, ex-votos of rescues,
for a shrine in a corner of my home
to pray for release from the mind's mad portraitist--
Wendy's sick green angel of the asylum,
William's fisherman curled up
in his own tackle box, Alice's hunched figure outlined
with scraping fingernail through blue