Two Poems by John Whitney Steele


In memory of B.K.S. Iyengar (12/14/1918-8/20/2014)

You’ve limbered up in backbends, lifted
into Upward Bow. You stand,
arc your spine, prepare to drop
back to the floor, land on your hands.

You stop. The ground is there, but you can’t see
quite where, and though you have been gifted
with strength and flexibility, you freeze,
afraid you’ll sprain your wrist, crack your skull.

Once BKS did Headstand on the edge
of the Grand Canyon. Not a show of courage
but steady mind, exuberance, a way
to wake up every cell, a celebration.

Standing on the edge you never know.
Something says it’s now or never. Go.


She placed her palm on torchlit stone,
spit red ochre at her hand,
left her mark, her stenciled clone,
a work of art, Neanderthal,
a language we still understand.

The permafrost is melting now,
releasing long held secrets:
fifty-thousand-year-old wolf pups
perfectly preserved, reindeer
killed by anthrax, disinterred.

When human beings are no more
what will we have left behind?
What hope have I to leave a mark
some future race will find?

John Whitney Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, David Rothman, and Ernest Hilbert. His chapbook, The Stones Keep Watch, is to be published by Kelsay Books in 2021. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Blue Unicorn, The Lyric, The Orchards, and Road Not Taken. Born and raised in Toronto and Foot’s Bay, Ontario. John lives in Boulder, Colorado, and enjoys hiking in the mountains. Website:

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