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Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3


Paulann PetersenPhoto of Paulann Petersen.

Paulann Petersen’s books of poetry are The Wild Awake (Confluence Press), Blood-Silk (Quiet Lion Press), and A Bride of Narrow Escape (Cloudbank Books). A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she serves on the board of Friends of William Stafford, organizing the annual January Stafford Birthday Events.  See other poetry  by Paulann Petersen in Weber StudiesVol. 5.2Vol. 11.3Vol. 19.2, and  Vol. 22.1.   Visit Paulann's website at:


Four of the Stargazers

The fish is one of the sea’s
bottom-dwellers, spiny, bone-clad,
its eyes having ages ago
floated to the top of its head.

A dose of viscous perfume,
the flower is an Asiatic lily,
its eye-spots, reddened with pollen,
lifted toward the sun.

Belonging to the group called
sky-scrapers, the sail is that smallest
triangle hoisted above
a moon-sail’s little square.

In other circles, it’s one
who’s looked up and away
enough too often
to be looked down on.
Amateur, dreamer, a poet
most likely. Or someone who’s read
far too many poems.
A misfit vainly looking to
constellate the earth.

One extra note for the stargazey:
that pastry of leeks and pilchards,
an onion-and-whole-fish pie.
The head of each pilchard is left
sticking out of the crust—
its skin, lips, and open eyes
gone crisp and wrinkly
from gazing too long at
all that heat.


To a Small, Sweet Calimyrna Fig

Half dried, half not.
Skin puckered.
Your stem-end curves
directly into your
golden-bronze body
scabbed here and there
with sugar so brash
it oozes out.

I do care a fig for you,
soft pouch of sweetmeat
that grew beside leaves
a hundred times your size.
To tear you open reveals
a sticky bed of glistening seed.
To bite, to chew, is to grind
the sun’s fine grit
against my teeth.

To you, my own unused
seeds might seem
familiar. Tiny, gleaming
eggs going nowhere
but backward now.
Absorbed, as you will be,
by my half-puckered body.
Fuel for its onward wizening.


During a Solar Eclipse

In case of murder—
some devil or dragon devouring
the sun—make a racket
of wails and whooping shouts.
Bang on copper plates
you’ve polished to mirrors.
Send enough hubbub out and up
to scare the demon into
dropping its prey.

Then again, it could be love:
the moon’s legs wrapped around
the sun’s thick hips.
In case of such a mating—heat
escaping their locked bodies,
that visible ring of flares
huge in the sky—
don’t even yip. Play it safe.
Look the other way.


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