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The You That All Along Has Housed You

The You That All Along Has Housed You

Praise for The You That All Along Has Housed You: A Sequence

“A so lovely book, though lovely is probably the wrong word, it is a tougher book than that. I felt it a very wise book, and am impressed at the quality of Leslie’s attention, which felt inexhaustible. Reading it I felt envious of her deep connection to place, and how deftly that informs the poems, and how she always seems to know exactly what she’s doing. Her writing seems to flow naturally—at least that’s the feel of the work — the complete integration of the person and the life."—Karen Kevorkian, author of Lizard Dream and White Stucco Black Wing


Leslie Ullman is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Progress on the Subject of Immensity (University of New Mexico Press, 2013. Her first collection, Natural Histories, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, and Slow Work Through Sand won the Iowa Poetry Prize. She is Professor Emerita at University of Texas-El Paso and teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Vermont College of the Fine Arts.


Sample of the poetry


Facebook Question: “What Do You Remember About 1987?”


A divorce. My friends and I seeking 

higher versions of ourselves in sweat-

lodges, hypnosis, and Sufi dancing.

Phyllis, Monica, Kelly, Ken. 

Red wine days. Vegetarian days.

Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the noisy

hum of a Kaypro 16 as words flowed 

through my fingers, in green, MS-DOS 

the new frontier. A 40th birthday —

potluck with margaritas, friends 

wandering into the nearby fields

with poems on their breath, and me 

held briefly in the glow of new, perfect love.

Kathleen, Sandra, Terri, Renee. 

I drove a Toyota Tercel and wore long 

beaded earrings. Listened to a Walkman

while riding Burly along the mesa, 

picking spines out of my heart 

and moving under a shroud of promises 

to myself I had broken. One night 

I found a rattlesnake in my house.

Hollowed out and ready for re-birth 

by the end of the year, I learned to 

breathe out angers I could touch

and sorrows I didn’t know 

had been hiding. The breathing

got deeper. The snake got away.

U-2, Whitney Huston, The Moody Blues. 

The breathing was like digging with a sharp 

stick. And the peeling away of masks. 




Feathers in the hair. Midnight above

the lashes. Thigh-high boots. Rooms filled 

with the shimmer of wind chimes, the anguish 

of Coltrane, the water-and-leaf-filtered light of Satie….


I read The Story of O and didn’t like it 

but something made me reach for the chords 


it missed. Desire as a black diamond. Not-quite danger. 

Sometimes I watched Lawrence Welk for a furtive 

return to my mid-century childhood, embalmed as it was 


in the syrup of his careful English, the accordions 

and bland lyrics—so much smiling 

and blondness, innocence tenacious as tar —

I cringed with embarrassment and longing. 


My nature made no sense to me. 

Nor did the future. I was like everyone I knew. 


I preferred foods I couldn’t recognize— 

bite-sized, jewels scattered on trays 

in minimally-furnished salons I could only 


imagine—even the hosts dressed in black 

and ate standing up. Soft lighting soothed their 

bisque walls from which my imagination 

withdrew its clutter —I conjured places 


where I could imagine starting over. 


I Could Imagine Starting Over


in tree-scented air, eyes 

cradled between cheekbone 

and brow. Luminous as moonstone.         

A face in which to start over. 

In a dwelling set so far 

into a field it almost touched 

forest—a place where the mind 

might become a canvas. And the hand 

its accomplice, offering dried asters

and stones the color of waves, weathered 

to translucence, oval, tumbling like coins 

from the palm. Once, surrounded by

strangers, I picked up an ostrich egg 

and couldn’t put it down. I’ve 

been searching ever since

and finding more secrets revealed 

through the hand and the tensile surface of eye—

the eye so in need of protection 

but taking in the world. 

The whole thing at once. 


Taking In The World. The Whole Thing At Once.


This is what parents tell their offspring 

not to do, viewing a child’s greed

as the mirror they must turn to the wall.             

Don’t reach…. You’re not entitled…. 

But taking in, receiving, the brought-up self 

backing off and leaving a wondering, 

porous self—eyes, ears, nose, taste buds 

like sea creatures swaying under water—

this is appetite that honors. And asks nothing.     

Narcissism is the hole hollowed true 

black, self’s need usurping others’ 

air and the light in their minds 

and getting away with it. A blindness 

to so much that gathers around us 

whether or not we notice. I could give up 

the me that curls like a slug 

with salt thrown over it when someone 

sucks all the air from the room

but not the noticing.


The Noticing


holds things in place 

the way roofs clamp walls 

to floors and corners, and trees 

send invisible branches deep 

into earth, steadying 

the commotion of wind. 


The noticing tosses the jacket 

on the back of a chair. 

Smooths it over the narrow ridge

of the present. Replays 

the chair’s first coat of varnish

and the jockeying of legs 

and seat through the doorway. 


Every bike lying on its side, every 

plastic ball or block left on the lawn 

was last touched by a child’s hand 

before the call to come inside—a hand

sticky with juice, or gritty from digging

a hole through the garden towards China.


Bouquet of spoons and spatulas in a jug, 

papers stacked and weighted with a smoky

river stone—smooth, fist-sized—beside three pens 

and a postcard from Morocco, clamshell

full of sea glass—all these still-lives left 

by the hand in its gatherings and settings-down, 

each one a moment. Each one a world.  

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