Kincaid-Ehlers moved to Connecticut in 1979 as visiting
writer-in-residence at Trinity College in Hartford. Having
intended to come for one year only, she discovered a liking
for Connecticut and has continued to live in West Hartford
When the contract at Trinity ended, she taught
part-time in local colleges and spent some time as artist-in-the-schools
in various area public school systems Then she went back
to school to retrain. Since the mid-eighties, still in West
Hartford, she has maintained a private practice in psychotherapy.
Elizabeth began making
poems when she was three, engaging her mother as amanuensis.
She has been making them ever since, sometimes writing them
down, occasionally putting them out into the world. Her
recently published book -- Leaping and Looming--
contains a collection of selected poems written in the years
in Michigan, Elizabeth grew up there and in Georgia,
going back to the University of Michigan for undergraduate
work. As an undergraduate, she received a Hopwood Award
in Poetry. Having married young, she spent several years
producing children and going along with her husband's career
moves, managing in the meantime to finish her B.A., earn
an M.A. at the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. at the
University of Rochester.
After the marriage ended, Elizabeth
moved to Connecticut and stayed put. To her great and continuing
delight, three of her sons and, now, a granddaughter and a grandson,
live in the area. The fourth, with two granddaughters, lives
in upstate New York.
was featured in the first year of the Sunken Garden Poetry
She has received many awards and prizes, including
the North Country Poetry Prize and a nomination from Nimrod
for a Pushcart Prize.
Elizabeth Kincaid-Ehlers' Page
Hartford Family Institute's
Center for the Healing Arts
My mother's closet sloped.
Shoes mated in odd positions.
Boxes stacking the back wall
kept the eaves from plummeting
to the hard, narrow-boarded floor.
Afternoons, I drifted through the quiet
from one closet to another. Hers
was best, I could smell her there.
Stroking rayon, satin, silk, I nosed
around perfumed breasts of blouses
to collars where, on tiptoe, I could tuck
my head and dream. Turning my face away
from falsely scented seams,
I wrapped long sleeves around me.
Or, more rarely, I might squat
to try those troubling odors
in the places where her lap would be.
Oh, it was risky. I had been forbidden.
Getting caught was certain
and the consequence secure: pain, long
silence, then the ridicule. But I was a fool
for love, so I returned to kneel among
the tumbled buckles, straps and heels.
Shamed by deprivation, wondering
at my own dumb need, I pulled the surplice
of her skirts about me and sought some place
beyond. Detached from sadness, blame or anger,
I breathed my way back to my mother
until, in that imagined, motionless dark,
we were at one.
Memory and Shakespeare
“Take back your boxes,” she said,
trying to stay my rising whine
against a U-Haul life. “Remember.”
Some of them I emptied, others tossed.
The ones too full of trouble, I resealed:
God being good they will store themselves forever.
How I have lurked in my own dark corners.
Driving north to the River, I think
“this is the place,” then am helpless
to hold against the shifting slick
of my Iago mind. “What is
this place?” The answer comes
as it always did in our Mister Bones routine:
“Why, this is Illyria, Madame” --
and he and I are young and funny
friends in love again.
Sometimes memory is just
a husky rustling, a silver cornfield
in low October sun.Other times I watch
a hawk seek wind on stammering wings
and will the worst of everything
upon him: in my orisons beseech
that he have only boxes,
no light in any room.
Doris Betts and the Four-Leaved Clovers
From the Bates College collection
it comes on inter-library loan, heavy,
mildly yellowed, Doris Betts' first novel.
Taking my winter cold to bed behind storm
windows, puttied sashes, radiators cranked up
to clank and comfort me, I open to her world
of piedmont Carolina, love and risk and
Godwin's cancerous throat, trying to tell
a story when it is already too late.
Stuck to the first page, brittle,
still peculiarly green,
a four-leaved clover.
I pry the long stem loose,
salute the life that pressed it
twenty five years ago,
and begin to read.
Just as I have Asa, Miss Clara,
Lady Malveena, the dead Jessica
and her boy, Fen, identified, another
clover rustles out, falls to pieces on
my bear paw quilt. Then three in a row,
two on a page, four together in fortuitous
design. I turn pages faster, scanning
this tale, hunting the other I am going to miss.
Someone roamed a pasture outside Lewiston,
or sorted deep grass in a mid-Maine orchard,
reading and picking through how many
long warm afternoons? Against what
trouble was all this good luck stored?
In the end I cannot wait,
turn the book over, lift it, shake
and exclaim at a cascade of clovers,
some landing intact or
sifting down in powdered fortune,
others hanging particular
In the hard, northern light.