31 October 2004

Carol Peters

My Transgression Is Sealed Up in a Bag
         —Job 14:17

when the eye saw me

I was a child and dirty—
beetles’ legs stuck to my lips, I sat tasting the dust of earth
outside the door of the Pittsburgh house where family
struggled to tame me, dress me in pale smocks, teach me
cleanliness and courtesy.

can the rush grow up without mire?

How would I know taste
except by tasting, more than once, by my hands and in my mouth
moving white and yolk in and out of my body
like letters back and forth on a slate until I made words—
experimentation and ecstasy.

mine own clothes shall abhor me

Therefor I cast them off—
one week of beachbumming an alien island shore, sunstruck mirth
in turquoise water, sand scrubbing between my thighs,
nightmares of tumbled sea wrack ventriloquizing leviathans—
hallucination and monstrosity.

they waited for me as for the rain

Winter mornings lend truth
or if not truth, then sunshine calving and spectral warmth
penetrating the marrow of old bones still rendering,
curdling sweetest milk into ferment and sometimes bile—
incoherence and memory.

there is a path which no fowl knoweth

No more I, not now or ever,
yet I fumble, I knuckle to task, I elbow forth,
wash my steps with butter in search of the rivers of oil.

30 October 2004

Carol Peters

incited by a tercet quatrain form my friend Thom invented, I "found" this poem:

Light. Glowing yellow.
- found at the start of Eva Figes's novella titled Waking

It spills into the room of wavering
shadows and forms a pool on the floor. The pool
of melted butter oozes across the floorboards

as a soft gust of air slowly lifts
the cloth hung over the window;
luminous now, it bulges inward
with the motion of a half-filled sail.

click here to buy 3 Eva Figes novels, including Waking, in one volume

28 October 2004

Carol Peters


Some puritan impulse,
some money-saving, time-saving,
pent-up-hostility-toward-the-media impulse
caused us to cancel
our television feed, and it was not
until thirty minutes
before the start of the 2004 World Series
(because we’d been in Honolulu
where even without cable
we can pick up the network channels
and watched through snow
the four-game-straight comeback
of the Red Sox over the Yankees)
that I realized
I would not be watching
the World Series games,
and I freaked out, because after all,
baseball is my favorite sport,
and the Red Sox my all-time favorite
team, and even though I hate
Tim McCarver as a TV color man even more
than I hate Rick Sutcliffe,
I had to see the games,
yes, John Miller and Joe Morgan are outstanding,
but remember that interference play with Alex Rodriguez
in the ALCS? I mean, how can you capture that
on the radio, nothing but words,
so I was faced with driving
to a sports bar or flying back to Honolulu
until my husband asked me whether
he should call the satellite TV folks
to ask if they would hook us back up,
just for a week, just for the Series—
I said Yes! Yes!
and it was the damnedest thing:
they said we had a twenty-eight-dollar credit,
they could turn us on for two months,
we could watch the Series for free,
so if you were wondering
why the Red Sox won—
the curse reversed—
it’s because of me,
one dedicated fan
as far away as Hawaii.

22 October 2004

Carol Peters

A friend suggested this exercise: Take the last word in each line of a poem and make each line of your poem begin with that borrowed word. My friend claimed that the new poem tended to take on the flavor of the old poem. Although I did not read the source poem I chose before writing my own, my friend's prediction turned out to be true.

I chose for a source poem "Growing Up" by Eavon Boland from An Origin Like Water:

Growing Up

mooning over not knowing what it might mean to be a woman
hair limp across one eye lest I see clearly
hopes for passion with dark-haired acned youths
fully anticipating a body I seem to have been promised
fantasy breasts
girls in my classes who have them
view of the boys who watch them
anemic after bleeding
out of P.E. with an excuse
womanhood so far nothing like the promise—I
knew somehow it wouldn’t happen
bonneted and tormented a cat out of spite
child in my heart
hope altered by perspective
all girlishness, vampishness, femaleness denied
memory and persistence of androgyny

21 October 2004


after "Endings" by Eavan Boland from An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987:

Carry On Baggage

A plane flares through the night.
The pilot doesn’t know me
yet holds my life with his own.

Long dark space
the bright stars tremble in:
Castor and Pollux—
Orion, the Great Bear—
gentle Pleiades.

Back in coach
I dream
of those I have ventured with:

a hand
in a hand
crossing over
the wine-dark sea.

18 October 2004

found at fenway

a middle middle cutter to mueller
blown save, mariano
how often does a lead-off walk score
says mike
did the announcers say it
they're yankee fans
fuck 'em
mueller's on second
the red sox could be a hit away
that's stating the obvious
damon needs to cut his hair
mike says
he chops it
bobble bobble
error on clark
is that timely
to put the winning run ninety feet away
now they just need a sac fly
mike says
he always wanted to be a baseball announcer
nomar's replacement at the plate
a lot of red sox fans are warming up
come on
what's that guy swinging at
that was a terrible at bat
the woman in black gloves wipes her fingers across her eyes
a chance to win it for boston
manny fest destiny
mccarver's blathering on
baseball 101
who's he talking to
his unborn grandchildren
the only people in boston with fingernails
are asleep with their tevo running
right on the hands to manny ramirez
the fans need it now
more than hypothermia between innings
bases loaded
for david ortiz
how about a walk-off homerun
says mike
reverse the curse
and two
and in
can you feel it
this is what we stay up for
extra innings
sore throats
how many times can a heart break
some fans are going to die
before this happens again
i hope it's not me

15 October 2004


after "The City Limits" by A. R. Ammons:

The Sky Falls to Bits

When you digitize a telescope, swap a magnifier
and light detector for a zero-and-one recorder, your new telescope
knows without seeing what is galaxy or moon, when you digitize

a yes-or-no truth table of astronomical knowledge
to guide the path of the lens, you set loose the machine; when you
the equipment, a thin tube expands to a dish patrolling the sky,

capturing the twinkling stars, wresting new secrets from them,
no qualms about strange shadows or vagaries; when you digitize
the ambulation of a curiosity that investigates the deep-red

flarings and bright-banded rings of moons circling the great
orb of a distant planet or the black holes and at no
time shudders at the whelm of immensity; when you digitize

that knob and tilt-bar, film and glass, length and breadth, step and
all are manipulated by mute process, programmed rigor
that roams the universe, the sky opens and bares its truths, the

fear does not infect the dish at work in space, and the raw
truths of the stars long dead are brought before us, new science
and old theories fall to plain facts spelled out in bits.

Nick Halpern's new book is about Lowell, Ammons, Merrill, and Rich.

09 October 2004

preparing for a poetry workshop

after "Bag of Mice" by Nick Flynn in Some Ether:

Remembering a Poem

I dreamt our first assignment
was to memorize one of your poems
& the poem was about remembering. The poem
recorded a suicide,
after pilltaking. The memory,
not lessened by time, sketched the poem
across a white page. I sang out lines
& as your feelings loomed through the stanzas
of remembered moments
your mother shifted around to show
me my mother, & the poem
drew closer.

Fellow Students

I dreamt the writing class
was filled with people I knew from a previous life,
& in that life were too many lovers. The life
turned into graduate school,
lectures and workshops. My lovers,
deferring graduation, extended their lives
another semester. I sat writing
& as the page count of my thesis
neared one hundred
my characters drove my manuscript
like ghost minds, & the lovers
circled my wagons.

08 October 2004

Go Sox

I’ve Always Been a Loud Sneezer

Double, high off the wall,
and I hear Gretchen say,
“Lowe is meant to be shot,”
but she claims she said,
“he’s mentally shot.”
Either way, she can’t watch,
it makes her too nervous.
Are you part of Red Sox Nation?
When an Angel strikes out,
a kid in a black T-shirt,
eyes squeezed shut,
bounces in a St. Vitus dance—
a genetic flaw
shared by most of us,
our cheerleading moves
deeply embarrassing—
torsos shuddering,
hands clutched, pumped.
Earlier I sneezed,
a room-rattler,
but not loud enough
to wake the kids.
No, we’re saving that
for a Red Sox victory.
What are you saving?
I hope it’s not something good
because it’s extra innings—
hope hanging from Lowe
like hair hanging from Damon.
Are you nervous yet?
Damon smacks it up the middle,
Sutcliffe belabors the obvious
while the bunt erases Damon.
No one’s breathing or drinking
while Manny strikes out.
New pitcher? First pitch—
David Ortiz puts it out of here.
SWEEP! Eternal hope
for the Bostons, while the kids
and the dogs sleep on.

07 October 2004

remembering home


A white bag of apples—
the tag reads Honey Crisp—
not a name for an apple.
There, I spot Cortland—
they’re better for pies.
Macintosh—my favorite—
too bruised and scarred.
In the end, what can I do
but take the Honey Crisps?

Back in the car, I taste one—
the flesh crisp in my mouth,
ample juice like honey,
not the mealy dregs
I buy in Hawaii. Bad apples—
the downside of paradise.
Nothing comes near
a New England apple
in the bright flush of fall.

Driving down Water Road—
remembering three of them—
and Woodland and Pond Streets,
sun, reddening leaves,
and this river or that
winding through the trees,
making a pond, rushes,
the marsh where we berried—
buckets, blues, and snakes.

06 October 2004

being home

after "Very" by Kurt S. Olssen:


This is my family. I don’t have family. Our family gave way
(even before my mother fell sick). I think some families
are better without having happened. Pretend we didn’t.

Debris predominates, and joyfulness. We try so hard
to act as if we’re not brothers and a sister with partners
and children, birthdays and holidays. We’re too old for all that.

Imagine a country where each child trims five trees
every Christmas to get that whole thing out of the way
so they can grow up into separated non-celebrants.

The only problem . . . look, why are we all together again?
Family: grossly mismatched garments, gathered off the line
and shaken, smoothed, buttoned into bafflingly perfect fit.

05 October 2004

more about coming home

after "Negative" by Wislawa Szymborska in Miracle Fair:

Preparing to Sleep in My Mother’s Bed

I’m reclining on a soft white sheet—
posies of blue and yellow,
pale blue polkadots screening ground.

Your bed: high, firm, narrow,
a creamy wool afghan with a broad red stripe,
your fringe and your knitting.

I’m remembering the night you maneuvered
your walker past the commode to the bathroom
and fell on cracked pink tile.

How one decision becomes the last
act of free will. How gravity
and old bones conspire.

Then well-worn formulas resolve the play:
emergency medics, practiced surgeons,
recovery pretending toward rehabilitation,

but no more going home, no, not in the script
due to danger to self.
Here lies safety without fanfare,

bed rails in the dark. They confide
a freefall last line:
don’t eat.

after "Endings" by Eavan Boland in An Origin Like Water:

Carry On Baggage

A plane flares through the night.
The pilot doesn’t know me
yet holds my life with his own.

Long dark space
the bright stars tremble in:
Castor and Pollux—
Orion, the Great Bear—
gentle Pleiades.

Back in coach
I dream
of those I have ventured with:

a hand
in a hand
and bowled over
in the wine-dark sea.

03 October 2004

speaking of rain

Walking in Scotland

down gray-green roads
how often in rain
how sorry I felt
walking alone
yet who else decided
to plunk myself down
in the middle of Robert Burns
country to walk and walk
along seawall
speeding cars
berried brush
castle ruin
until my knee curled
like a pink shrimp
saying no more no more
wee bonnie lass
not bonnie not
after hours of damp plodding
finding the peaked gray
stone house
the sign acknowledging
Bob slept here
not knowing a single verse
by heart
born too late for recital
or made too shy
maid not too shy
stopping in an ale house
a pub an off-license
learning to order
a wee bonnie malt
whatever they poured
in their house
and every time
the sweetest savor
all the way down

02 October 2004


for Harriet and Maud:

our babies blew kisses
to bubbles
pinwheeling down the drain

01 October 2004

napo #35 -- Derek Walcott

after "Fight with the Crew" from The Schooner Flight by Derek Walcott:

Training the Cat

The cat was raised by us, found soaking in the rain—
following the track of her starved viral mother
with a coat speckled calico, one beige toe.
She weighed nine ounces. We bottle-fed her to start,
still she sucks our fingers. We lived alone on a farm,
miles from town, saw a neighbor a week
or no one, until one year, we moved back
to society, and traffic and many loud noises
sending her dusting the floor under beds, “Come out.”
We changed her diet from generic chow to Friskies
because we shopped at markets, not farm stores.
Many times she was gone all day, me calling—
hoping nothing bad happened. Still, she triumphed,
came to know two parrots, the next-door dog,
learned to run in and out the cat door;
pretty soon, other cats came along too,
forced a change of rules: “You sleep with us at night.”
She lay waiting in windows, snick-snicked at doves,
chased her tail round and round, made us laugh—
after all, the kitten lives inside somewhere.
Only the open meadows of the many-acred farm
meant we never saw her winding in circles of joy,
not until we realigned her, made her an urban pet.