Ken McCullough was born in Staten Island, N.Y., but spent his formative years in St. John’s, Newfoundland. More recently, he has drawn inspiration from the mountains of Montana and Wyoming and the blufflands of the Upper Mississippi. In 1992 he was adopted into the Miniconjou band of the Lakota Nation. He is a graduate of St. Andrew’s School, the setting for Dead Poets Society, and has degrees from the University of Delaware and the Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa.

McCullough’s most recent books of poetry are Walking Backwards, Sicomoro.Oropéndola (published in Colombia), and Broken Gates, as well as a book of stories, Left Hand. He has received numerous awards for his poetry. McCullough has worked closely with Cambodian poet U Sam Oeur, survivor of the Pol Pot regime; they have published Sacred Vows, a bilingual edition of U’s poetry, and Crossing Three Wildernesses, a memoir. McCullough has two sons, Galway and Orion. He lives on a farm outside Winona, MN with his wife, Lynn Nankivil, a playwright. In 2014, McCullough began his second term as Poet Laureate of Winona.

Photo Courtesy of Mary Farrell



I love these days of white space,
empty pages waiting. For anything.
For footprints the wind heals over,
for owls, later, hooting po-po-popopourri

then sweeping up the place. The sloped
shoulders of the barn are solid white.
Even the ponies have long white beards,
even the shadows are empty.

Full moon through the sunburst locusts,
branches iced and dancing, like zhivago
wind chimes. Just look up and listen.

This is not apocryphal—we saw it
only moments ago. And the apocalypse
wasn’t slouched down behind the bluffs.

From your deer stand, in late November,
before trees silhouette, then disappear,
there’s a held breath. A rift between worlds.

What is missing from the rough draft
was not left out–looking is not seeing—
the colophon is out there in the rock.

Some call it atmospheric perspective
sketched in the margins of the mountains
—these notes, more cryptic, with lacunae

where you have to guess. Inhabit the stand
of dead junipers warped in human forms..
Where have you been? What are you being?

One bird. Two notes. Enough to name it.

Painting by Lisa Nankivil for "Obsidian Point" Book Cover

Photos of painting, books and other works by Kathy Greden

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