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About this poet

Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1945. She received her MS in 1970 from the State University of California at San Francisco.

Her most recent book of poems is Twin Cities (Penguin, 2011). Her previous collection, Sparrow (Random House, 2003) was a National Book Award finalist. Her other books of poetry include: Camouflage (University of Pittsburgh, 1975); Skylight (Doubleday, 1981); Wyndmere (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985); Applause (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989); Red Trousseau (Viking Press, 1993); and Octave Above Thunder (Penguin Books, 1997).

Her books of prose include two collections of essays: Women and Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 1997); Married to the Icepick Killer: a Poet in Hollywood (Random House, 2002); the novels Dear Digby (Viking Press, 1989); Saving St. Germ (Viking Press, 1993) Life after death: a novel (Random House, 2001) and her most recent book, Channeling Mark Twain (Random House, 2008).

Among her awards are the 1979 Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award of the Poetry Society of America, a 1981 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, an Ingram-Merrill grant, a Witter/Bynner Award from the Library of Congress, and several Pushcart Prizes.

A regular writer for the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post, Muske-Dukes has also taught in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of California at Irvine, and the University of Virginia. She is the founding director of the PhD Program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California.

She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she served as the state poet laureate from 2008 to 2011.

Selected Bibliography

Twin Cities (Penguin, 2011)
Sparrow (Random House, 2003)
Camouflage (University of Pittsburgh, 1975)
Skylight (Doubleday, 1981)
Wyndmere (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985)
Applause (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989)
Red Trousseau (Viking Press, 1993)
Octave Above Thunder (Penguin Books, 1997)

Channeling Mark Twain (Random House, 2008)
Life after death: a novel (Random House, 2001)
Saving St. Germ (Viking Press, 1993) 
Women and Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 1997)
Married to the Icepick Killer: a Poet in Hollywood (Random House, 2002)
Dear Digby (Viking Press, 1989)


Awake suddenly and afraid, I looked down from my
high window into the spinning prism of snow, past
the new flattened macadam to the white meadow below.

I watched the drifts cover the tall grass, where in
Summer, rabbits and whip-poor-wills hid from eager
slingshots and family-size plots following the surveyors’

black flags.  I’d been awakened by a sound: something
stuck, spinning its wheels. A truck, I could see now, as
it lunged suddenly out of the deep rut it had made trying

to downshift at the top of the meadow path leading to
the orphanage below. As the truck lurched free, I could see
its tail-gate shudder, gape, then a quick cascade of tumbling

shapes. Back-up lights, bright red blurs, vanishing.
Moon-lit, my school coat and scarf drawn on, I
went spinning down through the sleeping house:

feeling its familiar steady rebuke. Slipping out, ghostly
in blowing snow, I found them where they’d fallen.
Dolls. A scattered family, lying face-up, eyes staring

past me at the sky as their silly faces were slowly erased.
Kewpie-pouts, clumsy spit-curls. Raggedy-Ann dresses,
cheaply-made. As if a collection taken at the new church

nearby had paid a doll factory to spin off a poor version
of something loveable. Special delivery. Though now I
heard a chime. It must have been Christmas. It must have

been hours before the nuns led their small charges out to
salt the ice and shovel the hill where others sledded. They
honored the earth: I’d watched how their gardens grew

lush in summer, all the way to the iron gates.  I thought how
soon they would be gone, along with the living meadow.
So why have I kept close for years this dream of them, coming

upon the tossed dolls, face after unloved face, in the bright
new morning?  Holding them tight all the way home. Though
there was no home, of course:  I knew there never was one.

Copyright © 2015 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in the April 2015 issue of the Yale Review. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in the April 2015 issue of the Yale Review. Used with permission of the author.

Carol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1945. Her poetry collections include Twin Cities (Penguin, 2011) and Sparrow (Random House, 2003), a National Book Award finalist.

by this poet

                     -- Morituri te salutamus.
                        Los Angeles Times, 1927

Maybe it's not the city you thought
it was. Maybe its flaws, like cracks
in freeway pylons, got bigger, caught
your eye, like swastikas on concrete stacks.

Maybe lately the dull astrologies of End,

O the body’s much ballyhoo’d right to be born!
Aligning with her right to shine & die, a star!
They all know her name but not her age
A doctor our daughters shared, opined.

Her name, he said, was failure to
(Thrived onscreen, you’ve seen her.)


—Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"

The word’s augapfel
meaning eyeballs or “apple of the eye.”

But we only have the torso of a god here.
Apollo’s abs! Not, the poet writes, his