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About this poet

Sandra Alcosser was born in Washington, D.C., on February 3, 1944, and she grew up in South Bend, Indiana. She received her B.A. from Purdue University in 1972 and an M.F.A. from the University of Montana in 1982, where she studied with Richard Hugo. She is the author of The Blue Vein (Brighton Press, 2005); A Woman Hit by a Meteor (2001); Except by Nature (Graywolf Press, 1998), which received the Academy's 1998 James Laughlin Award and was selected by Eamon Grennan for the 1997 National Poetry Series; Sleeping Inside the Glacier, a collaboration with artist Michele Burgess (1997); and A Fish to Feed All Hunger (1993), which was selected by James Tate to be the Associated Writing Programs Award Series winner in poetry. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and theYale Review.

Alcosser's honors include a Montana Artist Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, a Pushcart Prize, a San Diego Artist Fellowship, and a Writer's Voice New Voices of the West Award. Formerly the director of Central Park's Poets-in-the-Park program in New York City, Alcosser started the M.F.A. program in creative writing at San Diego State University. She is currently a professor of poetry, fiction, and feminist poetics at San Diego State University and has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Montana, and Louisiana State University. Alcosser divides her time between San Diego and Florence, Montana.

Selected Bibliography


The Blue Vein (2005)
A Woman Hit by a Meteor (2001)
Glyphs (2001)
Except By Nature (1998)
Sleeping Inside the Glacier (1997)
A Fish to Feed All Hunger (1986)


Some days he'd rub two pegs together
until they made a greasy hum
like rain, the sound of moles
grawing the dirt's grain, the song
soils sing before a quake,
and the red bodies would hang
above the ground in a kind of confusion
or ecstasy. They would writhe.

The farmer showed me
the way worms made love
in concrete, coffin-shaped beds
on mattresses of moss and peat, slipping
under the rubber collars of each other,
joyous, shy, nervous, taking turns.
Androgynous worms, their pale larva
rising like dew on black earth.

He told me about the sweet spot
in the warm dirt where he found
the wild ones, night crawlers
a foot long. How he worked
day and night--plastic sky
dripping on his neck--preached
on Sundays, sixteen years old,
reeking of worm sweat.

We drove around his slow
Louisiana Baptist town, the square
garlanded with green metallic boughs,
red Noels, though it was October.
There was one movie house.
The Bijou of course. First floor--
expensive, gummy, for whites only.
Blacks sat in the rafters for a quarter.

Filmy bayous surrounded
blank brown cotton fields,
fluttered with white heron.
Once a black man walked
by a white girl and she ran.
He never said hello. The citizens
dragged him from prison,
burned the man alive.

But that's an old story.
This one's new--a black boy
sat in that same prison five years,
innocent too, and when the town freed him
he headed for the Victorian house
he'd watched each night like television--
the illuminated window
of an eighty-year-old couple--

he knifed them both, raped the woman,
what felons become legend to.
If you tend worms your whole life,
dig their beds, stir the eggs,
sort the dark segmented bodies,
you'll lose the pattern of your own
flesh. The whorls of your fingers
will vanish. A worm can eat anything--

two by four, dog, human.
I know this world, said the farmer,
I've listened to worms my whole life
stirring in slime. I know where
we come from, and despite all our slick
designs, I know where we return.
This town's passed more than once
through the slippery tunnels of worms.

From Except By Nature published by Graywolf Press, 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Sandra Alcosser. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From Except By Nature published by Graywolf Press, 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Sandra Alcosser. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sandra Alcosser

Sandra Alcosser

Sandra Alcosser was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944, and she grew

by this poet

Friday night I entered a dark corridor
rode to the upper floors with men who filled
the stainless elevator with their smell.

Did you ever make a crystal garden, pour salt
into water, keep pouring until nothing more dissolved?
A landscape will bloom in that saturation.

My daddy's body shop floats to the surface

Auntie lies in the rest home with a feeding tube and a bedpan, she weighs nothing, she fidgets and shakes, and all I can see are her knotted hands and the carbon facets of her eyes, she was famous for her pies and her kindness to neighbors, but if it is true that every hat exhibits a drama the psyche wishes it

Winter again and we want
the same nocturnal rocking,
watching cedar spit
and sketch its leafy flames,
our rooms steamy with garlic
and greasy harvest stew.
Outside frosted windows--
claw marks on yellow pine,

Venus wobbling in the sky,
the whole valley a glare of ice.
We gather in the kitchen
to make jam from