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
On Being Invited to Be a Muse
By a pharmacist.
A sad, brown man
(not his color, his tone).
Charlene’s landlord, he—
who asserted he hated jazz
but had never listened—
dispensed drugs two floors
below her garlic-scented kitchen
with its illegal kitten
in the business begun
by his dead parents.
He lived in their dead house,
collecting the fragile Hummel figurines
that were his mother’s passion,
eating solitary meals defrosted
from the stock in his freezer or culled
from the cans in his cabinets,
vacuuming his new indoor/outdoor
It was green carpet
and he wanted to kiss her
on it. But how could she
kiss an autumn leaf?
Brittle misery had already
Those were her
Charlene saw him more than once,
partly because having said yes, saying no
to the face of his ache
became intimately difficult.
he wanted to spend the money
he’d been hoarding
those eighteen years past pharmacy school—
his parents’ legacy, his own closely guarded
savings—to explore the world he had ignored.
His dreams arrived small:
not Everest or Tahiti, but the beach
up the coast and the new steak place.
When Charlene suggested Italian, he said,
I can’t do that.
To her why
he replied, I just can’t.
Comfort stretched only
as far as the nearest way out,
as far as the end of the script
he could read from here.
But Charlene was to be the Muse, the Muse
to entice him into the embrace
of jazz, of Tahiti, twenty-two
year old her, who didn’t understand
the seductive gloss of bravado fear dons
to cover its nakedness,
to deflect her from its dark heart,
gloss like light’s momentary diamonds
flirting across the opaque waves.
That Valentine’s he gave her
a gold and sapphire bracelet—
at least she thinks there were sapphires
and they seem important—
from the jewelry store one door down
from his pharmacy.
She lost it several weeks later.
She broke with him after that.
She couldn’t tell him
she had squandered
©2016 Laurel Peterson
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