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Poetry Moment: 'This Aging Body', by Amy Small-McKinney

This is Poetry Moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of 20 books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University. 

In the midst of dark days, hope can take us by surprise, offering up the miracles of life. In this new year, how might nature—and our own bodies—remind us again how to dive and fly?

Today’s poet, Amy Small-McKinney, lives in Philadelphia and was the 2011 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate. Her book, Walking Toward Cranes, won the 2016 Kithara Book Prize from Glass Lyre Press. Her poems have been translated into Romanian and Korean, as well as being published in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review and ­Philadelphia Stories.

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When we are grieving —or just feel like giving up—sometimes it is nature that nudges us to keep going. After she published One Day I Am a Field, her collection about COVID 2020 and her husband’s death, poet Amy Small-McKinney “had no idea what was left to talk about.” And then came today’s poem, a work that she describes as “the beginning of both acceptance and joy and the start of a new life.”

Here's “This Aging Body” by Amy Small-McKinney.

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My body a footprint
partially erased
will step out one day
not return
become mud after a storm
its dark moist mouth
its lovely grammar of acceptance.
Until then I remove my broken shoes
kiss them goodbye
leave them to their own resources
run ahead
into weeds and rough branches
to a place I remember
from before I was born
where an evening grosbeak
waits. I will not leave her behind.

This river blue-black.
The heron almost the river’s color.
I think about diving into the muddy
low tide with him
search for fish with him
my body all powder down
my bill a harpoon
but herons are cautious
of humans
and I agree it is best
I remain on the white cushion
of the pontoon
the sky in flames
of cerise and neon
one thin long cloud
cruising away
my body trying to learn
its own constraints, its miracles.

Previously published in Persimmon Tree

That was “This Aging Body” by Amy Small-McKinney. Thanks for listening.

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Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.