Allan Peterson


They took my pulse then punctuation
I still wrote as before
Then my caesuras went and they listened
with wires to my chest
to a kind of singing they said
that looked like dangerous mountains
on a screen like star radio
the crumpling of cellophane from space
They said I seemed to be drying out
The stanzas left  the capitals
My lines grew spare and hairless
more space between them
My exaggerations faded  My similes snapped
metaphors weakened
They said it was possible but not desirable
to make less of something than there was
and that I had left out
all of the Thallophytes Colembola  the weight of suns
just to mention a few examples
They said it was not uncommon
this widespread sickness of simplifying things


The moon is folding in curves I cannot make in paper,
and not once upon a time, but thousands.
In one pale dream I remembered another. I discovered
through a leak
someone must have been living in our attic. I told you
outside so he wouldn’t hear.
And there were sharp-winged birds across the moon,
songbirds I wanted
to feed and keep warm like the buffalo in South Dakota,
the moon-white one
sacred to the Sioux that appeared last spring,
black lamb among the white.
I had folded a house, a buffalo, actually an ox from crescents
and cut shapes,
folded corners, into polished hooves, a thrush within a moon.
I made a score in oaktag
and lo, Luna in August, tan and ocher as winter grass,
keen as razor through silk.
The secret tenant above us disappeared and I remembered
the waking life
where from apples I could carve out planets with a knife.

Allan Peterson's latest book is All the Lavish in Common (2005 Juniper Prize). Recent print and online appearances include Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Northwest Review, Perigee, Press 1, and Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry. He has received fellowships from the NEA, the State of Florida, and the 2008 American Poet Prize from the American Poetry Journal.



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