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Poetry Moment: 'Altoona to Anywhere' by Rebecca Foust

Poet Rebecca Foust
Poet Rebecca Foust

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

This episode’s poem is “Altoona to Anywhere” by Rebecca Foust.

Rebecca Foust was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and attended Hollidaysburg Area Junior and Senior High Schools. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Only, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Recognitions include runner up for the 2022 Missouri Review Editors Prize and winner of the Pablo Neruda and James Hearst poetry prizes. Foust served as the poet laureate of Marin County and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Artist Colony and the Sewanee Writers Conference. Her poems have appeared in the country’s best magazines and journals, most recently in The Common, Five Points, Ploughshares, and POETRY.

For many who grow up in small-town, rural America, the thought of being trapped in and subjugated to their parents’ and grandparents’ existences, relegated to a life far from the hustle and bustle of the city, is frightening and depressing. But most find, even if they move far from their birthplaces, that these first homes, these first teachers and their lessons, follow them wherever they settle. As the poet writes, “Kansas one day / will turn out to be Oz and Oz Kansas.” For some this may be a comfort, for others a burden.

Here's —

Altoona to Anywhere

Go ahead, aspire to transcend
your hardscrabble roots,
bootstrap the life you dream on,
escape the small-minded tyranny
of your mountain-bound
coalmining town.

But when you’ve left it behind,
you may find it still there,
in your dreams, in your syntax,
the smell of your hair,
its real smell under the shampoo.
Beware DNA—it will out
or be outed—and you’ll find yourself
back where you started, back home
where, unable to refute the logic
of blood and bone you’ll slip,
and pick up the Velveeta
instead of the brie.

It’s inexorable. Kansas one day
will turn out to be Oz and Oz Kansas,
with the same back porch weeping,
the same husbands sleeping around,
addiction, cancer, babies born wrong;
the same siren nights pierced
with stars seeping light, all that
gorgeous, pitiless song.


That was “Altoona to Anywhere” by Rebecca Foust.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

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