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Poetry Moment: Leah Poole Osowski and 'With an Ear to the Earth'

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode's poem is “With an Ear to the Earth” by Leah Poole Osowski.

Leah Poole Osowski is the author of two books of poetry, hover over her, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University Press, and Exceeds Us, forthcoming from Saturnalia Books in 2023. Her work has appeared in many of our nation’s best literary journals, including The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, and Ninth Letter. A former emerging writer in residence at Penn State Altoona, she holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and currently lives in Boalsburg with her husband, the writer John McShea.

Pennsylvania is a land of seeps and creeks, streams and rivers, mirroring the veins and arteries of our bodies. Today’s poem is set on Spring Creek in the small village of Oak Hall, Pennsylvania, and examines our various relationships to water: the ways it makes and remakes the landscape around us; how we try to control it with dams or retention walls, at times to our own detriment; and the long history of humanity’s intimacy with water. When was the last time you listened to the sound of water running over stone, falling over a log, reveling in that whisper or rush that speaks again and again to the importance of water. We’d do well to remember that water comprises more than half of our own body, that it’s the most elemental of forces in life.


With an Ear to the Earth

The dam retains the flood,
just as days harness the bodies,
keep them from thrashing wild.

We drive by a house built
over a creek and wonder
how often its tenants press

an ear to the floorboards,
eavesdrop on the speech
of flowing water—

ice, the unspoken
and melt, the rush of rot.
Last night we saw a movie

where a man loses three
small children to a flaming
house, and this morning

I read a book of poems
where a man lets go his
wife to fifteen months

of leukemia. The quick
and the long but still dead.
Grief, like so many species

with different speeds and
strengths, wild and domestic.
Consider: someone walks

into a river, chooses
drowning, as another’s
torn away in a flood.

Do both look at the water
they drink every day
and ask, How could you?


That was “With an Ear to the Earth” by Leah Poole Osowski.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.