Sofia M. Starnes
Poet, Editor, and Translator
Poetry Selections

In this page you will find some poems from my published collections.

This link will take you to a long interview, 
where I describe the process behind the writing of
The Consequence of Moonlight.

You may also click the following link to watch a video reading of my poems,
from Fully Into Ashes, prepared in February 2011 at the request of the Huffington Post:

This link will take you to a video trailer for The Consequence of Moonlight,
prepared by Paraclete Press.


Now for some poems:

From The Consequence of Moonlight



This field is not a place

of loss; the mushrooms bow

uncartilaged, unheeding of the sun.

They swivel low under their lowly

tops and cup the earth for drink.


What is it like? To set the sterling

silver to a task without sufficient

tines, to guess at taste, forgetful

of a teaspoon’s find or of a metal

boat against the tongue.


How would it be? To watch

the saints tell stories and not hear

about a woody morsel on their lips

(the turf in summer, vivid, between

sips): a common wince, a joy.


We wake to murk or moonlight

every night, squinting sometimes

at fog, sometimes at fingers faking

marquetry and trees. Where

nothing feels, nothing is ever real. 


Heaven, I think, lives off our daily

skin, props us as sentient mushrooms

on our stems, stems over healing

wounds, wounds over soil,

over the gutsy bed of streams—oh, 


how the glorious body happens.

Last. Child. Last. Child.


We do not speak in tongues or hold séances—

hands on a table,

ear to a distant hymn, as if our ghosts were nimble

advocates of speech.  Away from trances,


we believe in the close-knit village

of our voices; rarely believe in voices

we can’t hear.             A word depends on impulses—

air-catch, air-lease—that hold its meaning hostage.


Language, like the dawn, is the defeat of hours

and a second’s gain, to look at new geraniums

and say, timelessly: pink thumbs:

two words that leave the womb as flowers;


it is to hear, inadequately, words like “last”

and “child,” in threat of twilight. Say it again,

please: “Last. Child. Last. Child.” While a judgment

rides home to its homecoming. Shouldn’t we ask


who and why, the plot and the denouement, the ache

for endings?  One child’s asleep now;

the other’s fitfully awake. 

Baptism of Desire 


By way of longing, winter has its eye

on red wings negotiating timber limbs,

blood-rose and tailwind from the winter

bird: and nowhere nest, and nowhere


rest for saints. This I would see and call it

my concern. But only if I’d cradled her;

her feathers tufting, eager to be spared—

and nowhere nest, and nowhere rest


for beasts. Apocalyptic is too long a sigh,

the evening light translates to evening

wind. Again, an eye on whirled and wintered

bird. Awareness is the proper name for nest.


Restless we live; a penknife scrapes a ply-

wood, hinges harp; thud is the shutter’s

grim reminder that it shakes. The world’s alert

to feelings and to flukes. Until, confessed,


we hunger for the birds.


From A Commerce of Moments

The Soul’s Landscape

Ah, what the soul gives for shape –
to be handled head-first

at the temples, to be cumbered
with cotton, white puffs

from plantations in heat; what it gives,
for the flick, flick elastic

on wrists, loose-leaf palms it befriends,
at its youngest – for the sake

of all this, and this place.
Love me now with your

hands (says the soul, half-exploring its
landscape), better me

with embodiment; come, angle the ribs
where they beach into

longing; come, finger the oval description
of death, smallest hope

for cessation. When the room is redundant
of space, and its walls

wish for closure, thumb my corners
up, inward, wade your lips

through the ridge where they meet,
to allow recollection.

I must love with the tissue and the gloss
that embody: cellule, elegy,

ghost, danger, languish... all those words
out of context for souls,

God-forsaken, whiplash of the neck –

is a word I would use the most cautiously;
how precarious its hum,

ear to earth, plumbing earth, earthwise.

Shadows of Innocence

Purewhite, paperwhites,
odor of petals on the wicker-stand on which

we lean.
Deathwhite, dogwood white, hybrid

shadows behind the screened porch...
We have been cautioned not

to invade the white square off the house,
where the dead live.

Why did you bring the bulbs
indoors this year? Fresh spring-

whites are for old slabs with their prone angels.
Remember the dotted hearts in our earliest

missals, their venial lesson, scent
of onion skin. We learned

from them never to flirt with a fragrance,
for the sake of our faithfulness.

Blameless lily-white,
how it escapes us, as white always does,

with the merest gesture: a finger
smudge on the slick envelope, thin trickle

on the swab where a nail
ripped, velvet eye-shade against the tissue,

powdery death.
Remember the white cassock our priest wore

in summer heat, like a returning santo?
It dropped its length on stubby

feet, into our muddy garden.


From Fully Into Ashes

The Armoire

                  Save your people... save your heritage...
                                        The Book of Psalms

White lint and grey cloth, or moth on moth,
the closet opens

its overlap of living
things on things thought lifeless.

The cuff that idled around her wrist, the clicking
belt and sandals, slim

chevron straps and Cuban-heels, a little
awkward, a little dreamy...

chotis in the night.
They danced to this, then sidled back to the clear

divide, their throats alive,
their trinkets lifeless: earbobs

and brooch, the button-wink on his left lapel
their handsthe clasp

of a sequin purse, slick paper lanterns.
                                    Dense as a thicket,

this armoire mix,
my mother's blonde day in chantilly, the shape

of slippers and the shape of dawn,

In the bedside drawers, her rosaries.
                                    It comes to this: to save

a people is to save their things.
            Don't, don't tremble. Listen to me—

Listen to her amble beyond the door, coffer
of ashes under her arm

and no one stops her.
                        Listen to the wish-wind mazing

the wall, where she nods, smiling.
                                    Her longing levers

on lifeless things: she leaves them for us.
                        The closet heaves: sleeve-

lengths, wave-lengths, Aves in seeds, biding.
Flax-spoils of skin blow on the beads

no, never lifeless.


Imagine a province with nothing you've
ownedshepherds and rucksacks,

mustard and figs, fence-
posts and pastures, valley of death.

            Picture cedars and slingshots, a pocket
of beans, knotted sandals

further downhill, the pink of a lamb no one seeks.
In this story (and others) they

tell us of thesean inn and a portico,
temple and dome: upheavals... the hazardous

eyes of a boy close to swine,
hung jury of a father in drapery robes,

the red
ring he surrenders.

            And the stories have more
of the unknown: a river that licks what is other-

wise dry, the flap of a fishtail
in stone, always food, always given.

                                  What is it about psalms
that converts them to tales of our weeds,

the brown chicory pulled from our drives,
our blank corrals?             What holds

thingsconsolation, or garden, or hope?
What returns, blowing over the twilight-gold

pollen we bear to our tombs? Ache for angels?
            We have left a dark Plymouth still idling,

our fog on its glass, a pure dent
in the backrestthe little we owned of a father,

a road, old communions.
            Seven times we will wash away grist

from the slabs, rub the name, clean-sleeve
over; seven times we'll hear, coming, the bleat

and the scuffle of lambkins.
            Seven times the custodian

or shepherdwill wait for us, sign for us,
one by one: Hija! My child...

            Are you lost? Are you tarrying?         


From Corpus Homini: A Poem for Single Flesh

One Food

Absolve us for not knowing
what to eat, how thickly to lay
honey on the bread,

how long to soak the slices.
These are customs children learn,
half-wakened in their homes,

their mamá bowed over the stone,
whole body stirring.
Before long, she wipes her hands

on cotton plied against her hip.
The children set their spoons where
light erupts,

bounces against each bowl,
and skims over bright steel as stippled

Absolve us for not watching
long enough—those rituals:
cup of water, pinch of sugar brittle fine,

the yeast exhaling clean brume
on the pane, wet blossoms on a paten,
the kitchen ladling, ladling quiet grace.

Come, mamá, knead once more,
once more reflect the customary
pressing with hand’s heel, folding,

urging up and outward on the slab.
The dough springs, earnest, to the rim.
Niños, do not stray too far—

Now, she pulls the aroma inward, fuzz
of infant mornings, gold grain
into heart at supper’s dusk.

Come, niños, to the table. It is time.
Sheaf of wheat she neatly braces,
breaking no familiar stalk.


From Love and the Afterlife

The Corporal's Wedding

Tight, tightly willed this bliss: the foyer's hanging
basket and its moss, a garland banister, a silver clockface

ticking into glass. Here, promise and delay occur,
as in this wedding where the bridegroom slips, fumbles

the ring, and turns the day to segments, finger thin: a piece
to keep. He loves her, loving the birdcage presence

of their ribs, their momentary kisses.
Should they make haste—elusive bodies—steal away,

toss off her tulle, in a run? Will this distress her, discon-
certing?      (Nobody knows, as he, the creases crosses make,

the skins they bless.)         Tight, tightly
still: the moss that meets a bloodkin entourage, this boy

on twilight leave. The foyer locks its dark anemones;
once scars—lanterns, O heart!—now sentinels on knees.