The Hudson Line


poems by

Margo Taft Stever

Poetry chapbook, 38 pages, $10 cover price

($8 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-338-2

Release date: 2012


MStever_PxMargo Taft Stever is the founder and board member of The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center ( and founding editor of Slapering Hol Press. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Cincinnati ReviewWebster ReviewNew England ReviewConnecticut Review, among others. Her articles, essays, and reviews are found in the CT ReviewMinnesota ReviewRain Taxi ReviewPoets & Writers, and elsewhere. She read her poetry at the 2010 Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival; Folger Shakespeare Library; The Blacksmith House; Shanghai International Studies University; and many other places. Her book Frozen Spring was the winner of the Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry and was published in 2002. Reading the Night Sky (Introduction by Denise Levertov), won the 1996 Riverstone Poetry Chapbook Competition.

Margo Stever’s poems are brutal and tender, the natural world enmeshed with the mythic. She is a storyteller at heart, a poet of place and purpose. The Hudson Line is vibrant and valiant telling, embracing both darkness and desire.

–Denise Duhamel

In the title poem of her long-awaited The Hudson Line, Margo Taft Stever writes, “This is a train of thieves, all of us/who never cared for our jobs or our mothers….” In “The Quickening” she writes, “An apple sapling planted/in a hollow stump/blossoms.” Stever’s vision and language is stark and unflinching, as is the strange beauty she conjures.

–Suzanne Cleary

Margo Taft Stever’s The Hudson Line is a collection that offers us many lyrical gifts of observation, address, tone, and insight. I found myself particularly interested in Stever’s ability to build the depth of her character’s perception with an image or repetition in lines. We meet a man who “pounds his piano / with dumb passion” and a woman who “forgot to ask him something. She forgot what she forgot to ask.” This is memorable speech. …We know that Stever is paying attentiveness to sounds and images of English that make the language alive, make it new. … What The Hudson Line gives us, in the end, is the work of the poet whose empathy to others, and to the very landscape, is always rooted in the detail of her craft. The detail here is crystallized into lyric, and the lyric is memorable. This is a beautiful book.

–Ilya Kaminsky


It was the thought of his entering
their infant’s room that drove her.

She remembered his face the first time
she saw him. Now, half gone from whiskey,
eyes hooded like a hawk’s,
he said he’d kill the children when he woke.

The neighbors heard it,
the screams. They heard.

His workman’s hand,
his gnarled hand dangled down.
The knife lay by the bed.
She slipped from the covers
while he slept, placed her feet
on the floorboards just so.

The dogs barked outside, snapdragons,
flowered tongues, and all the wired
faces of the past strung up. The ax
hung on the porch, woodpile nearby,
each log plotted, uneasily entwined.
The children’s tears were rain,
tears were watering the parched hills.

The wild moon foamed at the mouth.
The wild moon crept softly at her feet.

The arms that grabbed the ax
were not her own,
that hugged it to her heart
while he slept were not hers,
the cold blade sinking in his skin.
She grew up in the country splitting wood.
She knew just how much it took
to bring a limb down.


Some say El Niño blows them
over the Rockies and poets pool
like guppies
grounded by the plains, hollowed into Ohio.

How easy it is to forget the nameless
places along the scant,
unremarkable rivers, the burning
polluted creeks. Even horses

pull themselves back from the earth
to ignore where they were born.
Why poets come from Ohio explains
why shopping malls are built to last

only decades, why deer end up dead on I-80.
Poets come from Ohio because
of the homelessness of the hills,
how they are low and rounded,

as if long ago glaciers ran out of energy
on the alluvial plain, leaving them
unstated, looking westward for relief.
Poets who wish to intone

come from Ohio because nothing happens,
only the sonorous gestation of their interiors.
They search the soured hills for daffodils, for tulips,
for everything they thought once grew there.



The river stretches out
like a line of flight, a pattern
winging toward God.
The river sucks
oars down; it pulls
toward depth, toward
study of the under-soul.
The river is constant.

The frozen forgotten earth
no longer speaks a language.
The dogs next door bark
at the clicking heels of the woman
who makes her way to the station.

Passengers stare at me on the train
at Spuyten Duyvil–their metallic drift
of perfumes, their attempts
to read as I write this line.

The river just stretches
with the Tappan Zee Bridge
into the green haze. No
river can deny the existence
of God, nor can trains travel
backward with people
shouting blindly out of windows.
This is a little train of reason.

People cough on trains;
something sticks like silkworms
to the backs of their throats,
and we who do not yet have coughs
have no time for mercy.
This is a train of thieves, all of us
who never cared for our jobs or our mothers,

who looked out over the Hudson
and saw only water.

If you would like to read the rest of The Hudson Line by Margo Taft Stever order your copy today

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