Allan Peterson ~ Five Poems


A paper cut from the map was inoculation

All night the slick machine of the river
pol­ished shad and Frances the geographer
noticed the earth start­ing to slope down
to oxbows now eye­brows and resorts

We ran a slight fever to adapt

We passed through Louisiana the dark
land­scapes try­ing on ill fit­ting storms
a lush crowd­ing of weeds gink­go pecans
vines with their hands out

Bank swal­lows wrote in chancery
above a sub­stance entire­ly surface
and Canadas rose from the river
to nib­ble the bean fields

Green creeks had green skies in them
leaves weight­ed so they fell to be kayaks
spi­ral­ing drift­ing all the col­or­ful fall
dis­mounts renew­ing pas­sion for the absent
A whole day named for a planet
A week with geo­graph­i­cal antigens

We were not immune



All deaths were black despite the satin pillows
and the orna­men­tal dusk
There used to be a bed by that name and people
could look at their furniture
that cot that mat­tress with a grim recognition
noth­ing rick­ettsial but catching
even a sun­ny par­lor was a host to foreboding

I gave up overconfidence

Cremation was the con­fir­ma­tion that this is it
Dust on the counter brushed off
So long to somebody’s uncle the hospitals
send­ing ash aloft from surgeries
to blan­ket the cities even win­ter dressed
like a bride turned dingy from grit
small clouds used for breaths
boiled from the stacks above houses
lucky storks on the chim­neys in Amsterdam



Any chaos is calmed by adding a horizon
As the sky and the water have made a seam
             the sun and the cut­ters follow
The house has reached a sta­ble configuration
Frances has arranged for the car­di­nal directions
The nest of the less­er goldfinch is at the window
             pearl in its bivalve below a mirror
Stand in one place and things gath­er around you
ivy and bro­cade com­fort­ably but­ton at the wrist
             To know about the future read the past
so much has been for­got­ten so much
that could have changed every­thing sooner
             To say every­thing about the peace of it all
would take a life it would take here to Mars
             on your hands and knees
so no need to read mys­ter­ies the world is plenty
down to the small­est thing and we don’t yet know
the small­est thing



What I thought was his­toric was Pierre Bonnard

who had known Monet and all the ice cream light
in Argenteuil over­lap­ping my life by sev­en years
who mar­ried his mod­el and lay­ers of sun
on a bath­tub and the byzan­tine oceans and blue seas

I see the date 1947 when he died and the lop-sided table
lean­ing with its pow­der­puff against a corner
the woman Marta dis­solv­ing in oranges and sleep
on the right side of the can­vas He floats with me

above the con­tin­u­ous tables spilled fruit juices colors
the light on them and his mind mak­ing use of the eerie

white horse so unlike any oth­er in the brush­work hills

the lit­tle cur­tains the same hue pulled down
over the grave­yard But this is not about death but life
that is his­to­ry even as it happens



After Pearl the bul­lets could shoot between fan props

After the gall­stones came home in a lit­tle jar for her dresser
she said to the grand­chil­dren yes I had whole trees of hair then
over my fore­head rocks in my abdomen slid­ing as I walked
grace­ful and dan­ger­ous as Bird-Jaguar in the glyphs

I remem­ber the first time I had wings like bookshelves.

I could remem­ber back that far I remem­ber the surprising
ease of amne­sia and the dream that opened a door
over Kitty Hawk that nev­er closed I remem­ber how
new chicks flat­tened from shadows
I was two and my ears and ton­sils were in a hospital
I remem­ber the tin­gle in my fin­gers had lift
I count­ed back­wards to the gas till I flew


Allan Peterson’s most recent book is This Luminous, New and Selected Poems, (Panhandler Books), a final­ist for the 2020 Oregon Book Award. Some oth­er titles include Precarious (42 Miles Press); All the Lavish in Common (University of Massachusetts Press, Juniper Prize); and Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s), a final­ist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Reached at