COMMISSIONED POEM: If, as They Say, the Soul


Todd's pen is for hire. He takes private commissions from individuals who want a Todd Boss Original of their very own. Commissions begin with a fee and contract, evolve over as many as three increasingly intimate phone conversations, and end with a poem that could only have been written in a spirit of mutual trust. Some are published in Todd's books. Others are printed in limited editions or framed. Todd has written to mark milestone events, birthdays, and anniversaries. Commissioners often come to him as strangers. Many stay friends.


People commission Todd because they have something poetic to express, and they need a poet to help them express it.


Todd's 10th such project in 2019 was commissioned by psychologist Connie Holmes of Boston to celebrate her lifelong friendship with author and activist Jean Kilbourne. Inspired in part by Ursula K. LeGuin's poem, "How It Seems to Me," Todd's poem set out to recognize a deep and abiding companionship between two very different people whose stars nevertheless aligned.



If, as They Say, the Soul,

in the vast abyss before time,

does indeed commingle first

with light and earth and mist

and then with self, and then

at last with something more

than self, an energy, before

becoming stone and sinking

back into the bliss of light

or antilight or the light of life

we call the afterlife, releasing

self to burn like spun debris,

then this—this now—or God,

if we allow there is a God, or

something metaphysical in me

or you—must alchemize the

transubstantiation in the coal,

and since this now is not so

new, when taken, eons, all at

once, and since my solitary

soul is none supreme, and since

God’s will must be forever

strange, just as our dreams

make strange what’s true, it

seems to me it’s you, my dear

and rare and lustrous friend,

star about which my stars bend,

who does the blessed alchemy,

or, if not you, perhaps it’s us—

the chance transversity of us—

our difference and its valency—

power amplified in twinning—

that keeps the cosmic deeps

inside me spinning.


To commission Todd, begin by contacting him using the contact form on the About page.



Writing on commission is one of the most rewarding things I'm privileged to do. For it to work, a commissioner must bring a story in all its complicated glory. I get to enter into the emotional landscape of their subject and their story becomes mine, the "problem" of their poem becomes personal. I'm grateful to Connie and to the many people who have trusted me to bless their stories with some carefully chosen words.




Todd is grateful to the following for support of his work: Forecast Public Art, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council of/and The Minnesota State Arts Board, The National Endowment for the Arts, The San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Warhol Foundation, as well as individual commissions and supporters on Patreon

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