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
After many men—
strings of them like Christmas lights
across the hot holiday floor,
plugged in to test the bulbs, one burnt out,
another bright but flaking orange,
another flickering on and off--
after all those, you.
My first love.
After many I thought were love--
the tricky shoals of a Caribbean reef
navigated with such care
in rubber shoes to view
through the neon green water
the swaying fans
and skimming parrot fish,
their lips moving as though
they had lungs and could speak of love.
The first one,
I thought he was love because
he saw the poet, pulled her out
of the cardboard
she'd been boxed in, shook
off the dust, plopped her upright and
leaned on her
and the one I married
because I thought I could make love
and it never appeared,
not even as a ghostly rainbow
in a shower of hose-water on a
summer Saturday, not even
as a hurricane burning
with all the right high and low systems,
not even as the inhalation after a kiss.
I lit candles, hoping,
but they lie.
After all that, you
as if I had never loved another.
As if I were still
sweating in my eighth grade
choir robes, hoping you'd tickle
my elbows while we sang,
whose hand in mine
feels like the first flower petal
ever laid on my palm, the first
wisp of fur across my fingers,
the first bite of ripe peach
or sip of warm milk and honey.
You, whose skin in my bed,
feels like the brush of that silent
mouthless parrot fish navigating the coral fans,
what we hope the fans would feel like
if our fingers brushed their lace,
if just for a moment things were
what we wished for,
what we reach for.
Originally published in The Dos Passos Review, 2005.
©2016 Laurel Peterson
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