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Jim Peterson


He is only a small one,
but his paws are huge.
He shuffles into the room,
swipes fruit from the tables.
He takes the slender white
hands of a lady poet who lingers
among the berries and tender leaves
with a notebook full of poems.
The mocking birds have gathered
in the tallest trees to sing.
"Your poems are really good,
terrific," he says. She smiles.
The bear is good in every part,
his tongue moves all the hearts
of speech across lines that have never
sung before. The lady poet is no
longer wife, mother, child, not even
lover. She must be sweet
in all her parts, and if she is,
his gaze into her eyes is deep and deep
and deep, his words are all the play
poetry and circumstance can summon.
Within his claws, beneath the wet
probing of his snout is all
forgetting. This is no lady poet,
but the dark-haired woman I have loved,
eyes burning with the intelligence of dreams.
She is more than the sweetness of her parts.
But the bear cannot be moved. The show he always
comes for will be his. His gentleness is only
for himself. What he leaves behind
among the briars and skins of fruit
is pain. I have no metaphors for that.


no one told me it would be like this
every day the sky grows dark
every night the sky grows light
the room holds its breath
and I enter
the walls continue to join themselves
settling into corners with little cracking noises
under the paint

no one told me
that where there is a room
even a room still learning how to breathe
people will come
they will stand around with drinks in hand
if drinks can be had
or sit in rows and listen
I join them and I drink
and I try to remember the words


on the tired road
leavers added their own
speed to the wind
comers fell asleep at the wheel
wandered onto knobby shoulders
one taking out a section
of brown board fence
sliding to rest in the fescue
surrounded by cows
answering his startled eyes
with their own

but I had gone far enough
that the town settled
like morning mist
along the banks of the river
I carried my one bag
with the busted zipper
and in my pocket
a letter from my mother
hand delivered still sealed

what I had come to believe
is we cannot see each other
what I had come to believe
is that talk is mist on the river
evaporating with the hours

that was not quite it

what I believed was the eyes of cows
awaking from the buzz of grass
the scattered squares of glass on the blacktop
the ticking of my shoelaces

the fact that I could carry
her words against my heart
and every night
not read them again


In the most fickle of Marches
a dog haunted my street.
No, it was a child;
my eyes were not so good:
she sang under the cottonwood:
she sat on my front porch,
a splash of gold and maroon,
an eyewatering blur of wind.
I watched her through my blinds,
her oblivion my wound
and my exhaustion, as if she were
trapped in a glass jar
on a shelf in an abandoned room
where all the lights kept burning,
and I were outside, my skin
warming to the sun's promise,
my hair alive around my head.


hand in hand with my son and father
I walk through grass so dark in its greenness
it darkens the sky
we play follow the leader
we hang from a limb
scratching and snarfing
we roll in the grass cultivating an itch
we throw out our voices
they turn in the distance over trees
and tumble back to us
full of the coolness of wind and rain
at night we build a fire
fascinated with the flash of blade-light
over the shins of trees
the small faces of leaves

Copyright 1999 by Jim Peterson

Contributor's Note