Wednesday, April 8, 2015

a poem by katie peterson

For Emily Dickinson

You like the moment when Dorothea refuses the diamonds.
I like the part when Detective Benson of Special Victims
pushes the yellow pad towards the perp with a pen.
God, the look on her face like elegance,
like just enough of something. Like the traction in late
capitalism that enables decadence:
the moment before you buy something expensive.
Before I could read, when my mother drove
over the shadows the oak leaves made
those handfuls of vague animals, I believed
our station wagon lifted off the darkness and landed
unhurt on top of the asphalt sunlight.
Your gingerbread won an award, everyone remembers
that but few remember that your recipe, so flexible,
could make a cookie or a bread or with enough
eggs, and in the right pan, cake. Passing the cemetery
where the nuns got buried, my best
friend crossed herself so I confess
I did the same. Your midnight ramble
into town to see the costly spire
of the new house of worship
provides no evidence of your faith, a prostitute
might do the same, and she’d at least
be on her way to work. On the night
my confirmation took place, I wore
doves in my pierced ears and a skirt
I knew I looked terrible in.
You’d eat a letter to keep a secret.
I know you were in love with him.
All of us should stay so far
from our families and still
inside them, seething under the skin.

Katie Peterson was born in California but lived in Massachusetts for a long while. She recently moved back to her home state where she teaches in the English department at UC Davis. She's the author of three books of poetry, most recently, Permission and The Accounts. She's working on a book of essays. She collaborates with her partner, the photographer Young Suh, on film and collage. She can't decide whether she believes in ghosts.

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