I’ve been writing since I was eight, despite being told that I shouldn’t. Writing revealed too much. This is why I tell my students they should never be afraid to put the truth on the page. I’m a community college English professor, who alternately loves and despairs of her students. I’ve written lots of different things—newspaper columns, academic stuff, poems (including two chapbooks and a forthcoming full-length collection) and a couple of mystery novels, one of which will be published this spring by Barking Rain Press. I have the very great pleasure of serving the town of Norwalk, Connecticut, as its poet laureate. At this very moment, my dog is sniffing through my trash for a draft of something to chew on. My website: www.laurelpeterson.com
All through Europe, she visited
cathedrals, medieval man's
stone, wood and glass prayer
to his God, the god
that ended that Age
with the Black Death.
She went for the mosaics that stretched for yards
across floors and up walls like quilted light;
for rose windows and marble carvings;
for the keystone that locked together the ribs of the roof;
for the clerestory, whose window illuminated
the cathedral’s central space; for the spire that shot
toward heaven from the cross of nave and transept;
because these promised
raw heat, penetration.
Some days she dragged her fingertips
across those stones and hoped
one living bacterium would leap
to infect her; at least then
her body would hold something.
But the majestic spaces offered only
transept bisecting nave, tombs behind gilded bars,
the arches flying between buttress and pier,
piers like God's canes on the cathedral
floor, and crucifixions glowing in glass.
And the god that might have been there only
shuddered faintly through ruby panes
like shadowy leaves.
This afternoon, the sun colors
an echoing nave.
She sits drenched in topaz hoping
to be warmed, fingertips tented—
here's the church,
here's the steeple—
ever empty except
for the hope that, past
what she believes,
magic may answer.
From That's the Way the Music Sounds, Finishing Line Press, 2009
© 2017 Laurel Peterson
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