Elegy

Katie Peterson

At the border between winter
and spring, at the house I am living in,
outside the window
in the bedroom, closest to the bed,
a branch I thought of as near dead
comes into a cascade of flowers
the color of champagne.

For weeks, I couldn’t think of the right
figure from myth.
I rejected the seeds of the pomegranate.
I rejected the mirror, rejected
going in drag toward the laurel
and calling it mine.
I wanted a woman who grabs.

I bought a camera and began to save
the sound of the wind through fences,
to layer it over water
running the course of an icy creek
in the desert, but I couldn’t keep
the scent of sage rising with the rain
across a rock covered with lichen.

All winter that dark arm
scratched my window, paying no
attention to my appetite for sleep.
I could have ripped it right out.
Something kept me from that.
Judgment is preferable to faithfulness.
A pair of handcuffs better than a ring.

The mistake other people make,
I won’t: because the rules have changed,
there is nothing beautiful to obey.
For three hundred years an island lost
the ability to make pottery on a wheel.
They looted ruins that had been houses once.
But they knew they had been houses.

I refused the pomegranate, I took
back the mirror, but I took from
the pomegranate its difficulty, its bitter
extraction. From the mirror, I took
its appetite for change.
The laurel had been my address.
I changed it.

I can’t say that I’ll stay up all night
waiting for the ghost, but I will promise
something more difficult:
If she asks, I will do what she says.
So when I fail her, you will know
exactly how to punish me.

Read another poem by Katie Peterson by downloading the free Amazon digest version of The Kenyon Review.

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