And for a while it seemed there were rainfalls
that lasted whole weeks     The ghost trees wet
then dried by sunlights
we’d never seen

What followed     a heat      as if cresting
from inside the earth     cracking roads

And soon we were dreaming of the cold
Northern lakes     frost-dust across
the length of the fields

                          I saw moths in darkness
locked in the skeleton trees     wind rippling
the bushes at dawn     carrying
heat     driven inside      trying to recall
thunderstorms at evening      or just
everyday flickers      finch-flash
bobbing into the branches

                                 That summer
I receded further     waited like the others
for the edges of a season    as words too
dropped away    oaks elms ash   clear quartz
a constellation in topaz

The night driven into my body      its salt
and water     veins incandescent
in my temples     as outside the thick heat
skinned the ground


How will we manage without a breeze
through an open window    There must be
new machines that can
cool us     windswept minds
                                                I turn
to the grackles shrieking
in the dusty sycamore
                                      Afraid the huge flock
would decide ours      was the best tree for
nesting    like fools
we shouted at the birds

                                      Will today
be any different     Those long-throated ruby-
speckled plants I saw in the wood bog
carnivores     strange
how do they bear this heat     Who
knows who can say    what will change

                        Last night crosshatched
against the hot evening sky     I did reach
for those dried weeds dealt to the ground
I was quietly clear      something unnoticed
at the base of my throat      how soon
is inside all that we have

                                      I miss hearing
schoolkids at recess      miss the hard face of the man
in the park     what he was dealt      who has
my father’s hands    That was just his luck
Don’t you think
luck is to be feared

Today the sora bird races
the length of the beach      a blast of breath
in her tiny lungs


How one day there is prospect     the next day
the heat    touches every other grief
I turn away from the window
and have nowhere to go

                         But the sting of cold air
I was able to breathe      rivers
that held me up     floating with my father
in a canoe     slow amber
in the silver maple leaves above us
Nothing     but water lapping

How to understand     what I’m becoming
He is old now     failing
and no longer a source of joy for me

But the life he lived I am trying
to follow
                        he bought scrappy land
to cultivate a prairie    hauled us in summer to
vaulted redwood groves    spent what he could
on piano lessons food banks redwoods
because    he said
they can withstand being burned

can say    My desire to trust is deep
I have that from him

                                    The moon
draws across thin fields   What I seek
where does it begin     private as I am
Over the dark floors of grass     something rings
brown rain     rushes down the steps of the
government buildings     everyone has
taken shelter     who can









Across five books, most recently The Nightfields, Joanna Klink’s work has been marked by emotional intensity, her poems driven by the desire to connect “the endless daily sorting of our lives” and the otherworldly. She has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the Guggenheim Foundation. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Klink taught for many years in Missoula, Montana. She now teaches at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.


Recent writing

E Read More

PoetryMay 19, 2024

“Everything only connected by ‘and’ and ‘and’”: On Elizabeth Bishop and Disappointment

In prose that’s erudite and accessible, former Editor-in-Chief of At Length, Jonathan Farmer, explores why “[s]o many of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems end with something audibly, willfully unsatisfying.” Covering Bishop’s career from “The Map” (1946) to her late elegy for Robert Lowell, “North Haven” (1977), Farmer’s claim will send you back to Bishop’s poems with new eyes.

W Read More

PoetryFebruary 16, 2024


“[W]hat am I to do / about beauty, about / my fear that beauty // has made me arrange / every experience in a word / and image too neatly // for them to bear / much semblance to life,” Paisley Rekdal asks in this confessional, ekphrastic poem written in response to George Stubb’s famed painting of an Arabian thoroughbred, “Whistlejacket” (1762), on view at the National Gallery in London.

S Read More

PoetryFebruary 9, 2024


“[H]ow do they bear this heat Who / knows who can say what will change,” Joanna Klink writes of this poem’s eponymous plant, also known as trumpet pitchers, as she explores our climate crisis and her relationship with her father in language that is both colloquial and catastrophic, meditative and urgent.

T Read More

PoetryApril 11, 2023

Three Weeks

“I am going to try to write / A little. // I have nothing at stake but my life.” In Dawn Potter‘s sequence, a 19th century woman alternates between diary entries and poems, trying to make sense of her life, her obligations, her hunger for holiness, and a feeling of disaster or deliverance just out of view.

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.