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POEM: One Can Miss Mountains

Photo by Stanislav Rozhkov

The New Yorker published Todd's poem about Alaska just prior to W. W. Norton's publication of his debut collection, Yellowrocket. He wrote the poem while serving as the self-appointed poet laureate of Nina's Cafe in Saint Paul, where for two years he ran "Verse and Converse," a monthly reading series.

The poem recalls the two years Todd spent getting his MFA at the University of Alaska – Anchorage, surrounded by the Talkeetna, Alaska, and Chugach ranges.

One Can Miss Mountains

and pine. One

can dismiss

a whisper’s


and go on as

before as if

everything were

perfectly fine.

One does. One

loses wonder

among stores

of things.

One can even miss

the basso boom

of the ocean’s

rumpus room

and its rhythm.

A man can leave

this earth

and take nothing

—not even


with him.

The poem is oddly prescient. Twelve years later, Todd would quit his lease, sell nearly everything he owned, and begin life as a nomad.

Every writer dreams of landing in The New Yorker. On the day I got the news, I was working at The Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. Unable to concentrate on anything else, I asked for the remainder of the day off and biked home, stopping on the Franklin Avenue Bridge to watch the Mississippi River awhile. The wonder of that moment is still with me.

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