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  • Allan Peterson

Five Poems


I was in a mulberry that grew like a willow

thin limbs vinelike in a skirt of leaves

Through laddered shadows I saw our Chevrolet

and the simple geometry of parking in white lines

strawberries beyond

I wore a deck chair an adirondack

ribs upright broad arms and a failing spine

Night painted the hills and spread a black towel

around my shoulders then came the meteors

a necklace of now with then around the edges

I was wearing a hammock like the moon

crescent from weight and criss-crossed

with small birds sweeping back and forth

as if laying spider silk that could explain

how the argiope hung its net above the creek

I could have dressed in feathers

I could have even liked opera


I am reading small books

that can be opened with one hand

and held as if cecropias

wings spread wide as pages

Amy makes them

They confirm my wish to live fully

in the intensity of silence

and within the beautifully accurate

language of Gray’s Anatomy

Earth is a bookmark birthmark

I hold a cobalt glazed bowl

full of babylonia spirata

from the Indian Ocean

resolving wishes into fulfillment

A fog bank book moves downshore

cohesive opaque yet ghost made

a frenzy of cells a magnificent glimpse

a sunset sewn in gold threads

and I am still in love all flowers are

Forget Me Nots

To protect such preciousness

colophons once bristled with curses


Is any word more watery than this

I close my book The ocean

is turning its pages faster than my own

a notebook with helpful tables of conversions

how many ounces in a mile

Above high tide a rain releases esters and alcohols

from lichens and live oaks

The future is lights and darks back to back

a continuing revelation with breathing inlets

eyelets like wearing a seeing shirt

Even time was discovered to be water soluble

The swollen moon could shrink to a button

Rocks were ducks with their heads wing-hidden

Ducks were rocks with their oxides showing

The miraculous is so everyday it lasts

Even the wavering pages in my book meet the guidelines

for permanence


It is what we call sleep

An account and description

For some hours we had forgotten

distracted by phone calls and bombing

of distant villages wondering

whether plaid was the true beginning

of abstraction

Then some faint reminder condenses

from a long hallway

the words you are reading seem a kite

let out on a long string

the page pumiced snowy with erasures

We slip from hard facts into florilegia

a drift without noticing

a parade and a horse startled

that couldn’t help stepping backwards

onto the child on the curb

a voice of someone not present but speaking

in your voice vortices like smoke

like swirls from rowing

We are inside

We become the tradition that after a query

is a curl and a dot

a squiggle become quizzical through use

A tree of crows discussing at once

what comes after seven


It was not promised it was just land

and it was not another language

just the dictionary upside down

You get used to it

looking on the stove to read time

watching lop sided flowers

slide off bedspreads and spring

handing over its once fresh belongings

The glimpse is underappreciated

as a source of knowledge

a gust through a sway of sumac

a promising shadow almost resolved

a tremor indicating an edge about to let go

the angle of repose in granular material

and a village meets the valley floor

in disarray and disaster

Death is a whisper till it shouts

Allan Peterson is the author of five books, most recently: Other Than They Seem, winner of the Snowbound Chapbook Prize from Tupelo Press; Precarious, 42 Miles Press 2014, a finalist for The Lascaux Prize; Fragile Acts, McSweeney's, a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle and Oregon Book Awards. A visual artist as well as a poet, he divides his time between Florida and Oregon.

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