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Fall 1994, Volume 11.3



Paulann Petersen

Paulann Petersen (M.A., S Oregon State College) teaches at West Linn High School in Portland, OR. She has published two books of poems,
Under the Sign of a Neon Wolf (1989) and The Animal Bride (1994). 
See other poetry  by Paulann Petersen in Weber StudiesVol. 5.2Vol. 19.2Vol. 22.1, and  Vol. 23.3.   Visit Paulann's website at:


Yes, Walt Whitman

The grass is indeed
itself a child, child of a fir
whose scabbed trunk lifts
needles of resin into the sun,
child of a stenciled oak
lunging at the wind. You say,
then science repeats that grass
is the offspring of trees.
Trees evolved to thin blades,
huge grows into small,
and all our belief that little
moves inexorably toward big
vanishes with the rest of school's
unraveled lessons.

The skies grow into a mouthful
of air, the mountain into a temple
reflected on the river's eye.
Pounding and pounding,
the ocean turns itself
to a blaze of salt,
while the sun keeps busy
becoming the work of bees—
chambers of honey
housed in an animal's skull.

Our bodies too—knuckle and shank,
twists of muscle and hair—
have come from another
bodied forth huge and fine.
Children of such expanse,
we, in turn, are growing toward
something much smaller yet fine—
small as the stone of a summer fruit,
blood cherry: its hard seed
a size to be carried unseen, pressed between
a finger and thumb.



We've paid to watch polar bears
swing their blond heads from side to side
casting for a fleck of scent—
                         perfume, menses, sweat,
           the meat on our breath—
while two guys jostle at the rail, one growling
           "Shit, Randy, that she-bear wants your body.
           She's spotted your beard, dickface."

The elephant handler shouts to his charge
           STEADY STEADY
                        as he slips a garbage can
under the stream of urine,
           another under falling dung,
              so deftly he doesn't miss
                            a word of his patter;
and the oval path remains unspotted,
most of us watching break into applause,
children who ride the elephant's back—
           their sandals brushing its hide, pale coral
                      speckled with charcoal—
are pleased by the part they've played.

A woman in black and white polka-dot shorts
stares at the bat-eared fox
           who does nothing but try to dig a burrow
        near the edge of its concrete moat—
                      a spot rubbed raw
                 between its obsidian eyes.
The woman's skin, flawlessly pale,
                      is marked by a large mole
    on the back of her thigh—
                                     darkest mole,
           small animal burrowing out.


This Owl Is a Song for the Hunter

take care   take care    watch out
this owl is not     an owl     this owl is
a raven     an egret      a sister
a great     blue     heron
when you walk     toward this owl
your brand new watertight boots will go
sluck     sluck     sluck     in the muck of the field
this owl will hear     will hear you
your bullet is a silver wire
tight and thin     between you and this owl
it hums hums     between your eyes
inside your head     sewn to your skull
it hums    hums    silver glint
stretching from you    to god knows where
reaching from you to this owl
it hums     hums     now! a rush of wings
a hole in the air       look at this owl
you cannot see     a single place
where your bullet might have
gone out     gone in
silver wire     coiled     looped
left to dangle free     look     see
this owl wears earrings of silver wire
see     she can see
look out     look out     turn and run
fast as you can       a shadowy wing
brushing your ear     your cheek
run to your door     rattle the knob
pound to get in        around around the house
run and run in your brand new watertight boots
sluck     sluck     sluck     sluck     sluck


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