Note: I am honored that Alexis Lathem chose one of my photographs for the cover of her new book, Alphabet of Bones. Alexis and I have been friends for almost a quarter of a century and have worked on many campaigns together. And we both have much more to share as time goes by…

If you are near Burlington, Vermont on September 26th, I hope you will attend Alexis’ book launch party (details below).

Alphabet of Bones

Special Book Launch   26 September 2015 @ 4:30 p.m.
Arts Riot
400 Pine Street
Burlington, VT 05401
The readings will be accompanied by a fine art slideshow and a live jazz music performance.

Alphabet of Bones

by Alexis Lathem

Releases September 2015

Alphabet of Bones is a collection of poems born out of the poet’s long engagement with the natural world—as gardener, shepherd, activist, and as a mortal human being whose bones will one day return to dust. Set in the context of unprecedented violence against nature—as living cultures are reduced to archeology—these poems take the long view, insisting on a deep ecological memory, and an awareness that our stories will be told through the landscapes we leave behind. From the pastoral landscape to the arctic tundra, these poems trace the discovery of the luminous in the shadows of loss. “We must leave a message,” the poet asks. “But in what language will we speak?”


Praise for Alphabet of Bones

“Alexis Lathem’s poems are steeped in patient observations and a deep comprehension of the grace and tragedy of human life, of the mysteries of the natural world, and our fragile place within it. Perhaps most of all these poems are shaped by an understanding of the power of language — its music as much as its meaning. Alphabet of Bones is a grave, beautiful accomplishment.”
—Jane Brox, author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, named one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2010 by Time magazine; Five Thousand Days Like This One, a 1999 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction; and Here and Nowhere Else, winner of the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award.


Instructions for a Ghost Writer

Let it rain so long that the only vowel the water knows is O.
Keep still. Wait for the mist to lift.

If you’ve listened to the moths beat their wings against their moons—
then you will be prepared.

You will hear things—animals, footsteps, wind—
and will doubt yourself. This is to be expected.
Your ghost will come.

She will tap softly in your ear and hum.
She has a fondness for words like pellucid and papyri.  
She will want you to put them in.

Follow these instructions and she will come again.
Stay close to death. Stop for the dying squirrel in the road,
put its heartbeat in your poem.
Grow your parsley and calendula from seed.

She might fall asleep in the corner of your room, stumble out at dawn.
Overtake you walking on the Brooklyn Bridge. Be tender,
she is made of the faded scent of pine. Close the door quietly.


About the Poet

1436552732483Alexis Lathem is an environmental journalist and writing teacher. Recipient of the Chelsea Award for Poetry, a Vermont Arts Council grant, and a Bread Loaf scholarship, her poems and essays have appeared in many journals. In her reporting on the struggles of indigenous peoples to defend their lands from development, she has paddled and trekked through taiga and rainforest. She lives on a small farm in the Winooski River Valley.


 To purchase Alphabet of Bones, please contact:

Wind Ridge Books of Vermont
233 Falls Rd., PO Box 595, Shelburne, VT 05482
(802) 922-7641  [email protected]