Iowa Writes

Of an Alphabet of Steppes

But after he was gone, I began to consider

that the “I” floats above the middle finger

                                          and the deaf with their kites

and the “O” above the next

                                        who touched

the “E” above the index—note

it’s the vowels that live in air

and the continents distributed

rationally across extremity.


                                      is distillation

                                      among strangers.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting


Cole Swensen is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her books of poetry include Goest, Such Rich Hour, and Try. “Of an Alphabet of Steppes” is from The Book of a Hundred Hands (University of Iowa Press, 2005).

Established in 1938 and housed in the historic Kuhl House, the oldest house still standing in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Press publishes scholarly books and a wide variety of titles that will appeal to general readers. As the only university press in the state, it is dedicated to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the region.

This page was first displayed
on December 21, 2006

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