“What Lives Here”: A Poem for Barbara Vacarr’s Inauguration

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, faculty member in the IMA program and poet laureate of Kansas, recently composed a poem that was included in the program for the inauguration ceremony of Goddard’s new president, Barbara Vacarr. Here’s the poem.

What Lives Here


It is always the question and answer infusing this ground, this air

electric with decades of revelations, stone walls made and remade,

walkways cobbled together, stories unfurled at the speed of light

at the round table in the round room, and on the path to the library,

a moment’s spark that will take root and make fire for years to come.


In February, bohemian waxwings fill every branch of a singular tree

beside the Clockhouse. In April, snow buries the snowdrops that rain

will clear an hour later. In July, the sky wraps bright birdsong

in the upper garden while one woman, here for the first time, walks

the maze below, amazed she can live out the song of her secret heart.


What lives here is always courage, a kind of staying power that defies

and even restructures logic, snow that weighs low the narrow branches

of the pine framed in the Manor Lounge windows, the cathedral of elder

trees deep in the October woods, found only after crossing the Wabi Sabi

bridge over memory and creek and onto the other side of what’s possible.


Here, morning surprises three people from three generations who have talked

all night on the springless couch. Here, a conversation in the cafeteria can change

everything. Here, a touch on the shoulder, a single feather fallen in front of the next

step, the precise blend of wind, humidity, longing and daring at specific moment

can return us from years of being lost without even knowing it.


This is a place of promises that will not let go, words unearthed and held onto

for the life they give, the whole world of Goddard muted and shining like autumn

while the living and the dead on the other side of each breath, study plan, meeting,

gesture or forest pause to listen, tell us that what lives here braids through our lives

from here on, a talisman we carry with these words: This is who you are.


— Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas

Faculty member, Individualized MA & BA & BFA programs

Coordinator of Transformative Language Arts



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1 Response to “What Lives Here”: A Poem for Barbara Vacarr’s Inauguration

  1. Amazing poem and such a wonderful encapsulation of Goddard living.

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