Three poems from Repeater

Michael Peterson

[One summer you suppose]

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One summer you suppose another summer
      will be ransomed—at last—
the stark-rocking maple now willfully green,
      the house like a boat like a house,
its old anthem stolen back from obliteration,
      incredibly redeemed by a throat—
an ocean instead of ash, or liquor in the
      throat that’s singing nameless,
unremembered acts—but this too—misleading.
      Tree sway.
The orchard’s aqueduct and memory and a
      familiar fray of nettle or
the memory of nettle we had seen elsewhere
      closer to the coast when we had
been there, had been asleep, a whole day
      close-to-valor—but
valor implies the war you also wage it for
      doesn’t it, shouldn’t it—
summer, yarrow in your pocket and then,
      suddenly, more yarrow:
rescue the color of turmeric under the nails
      of Achilles, remember, who to
spite rage, its worked copper, crushed some
      flowers in the one soft place left
of his palm—where now no javelin, no reins—
      more like a girl’s cheek,
brushing against the shoulders of his men.

[Vigilance go slowly]

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Vigilance go slowly, our ear so hard this
      year to the rail. Bantam seed, who
nonetheless explodes from drink, suppose:
      the high lake winters over. That
one you’ve always called cathedral. Season
      means your father knows this
even without going. The family winters
      over like the sternum of the lake.
Alpine, the mother dies. Ruin is supposed—
      But one thing begetting everything
so?—that would be ruin. So. Law by law
      the stalk with which we wail
on us, to each his own, to parts, to pulp,
      to filum: to imagine now
the family working through a field of wild–
      flowers. Hold on.
To imagine the family in death’s field.
      What is the law
or what is the culture of that law, whatever
      name of the wilderness
before known
      to the family before
sorrow, whatever chant by which we begin
      to know the bare name barely
again, not opulence but now mineral.
      Tuolumne. Your house
that would be granite. Now drink to that.

[Repeater–]

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Repeater—
                          then you played the summer’s
      underwhelming passage, exactly,
yet so much left to perform, or to be poured
      back out, in the way of what
is once stolen and prized, but briefly, then
      suddenly given up, vessel tipping
into vessel, the body reiterating what passed
      in, was held, now backward
from the mouth, all a stomach can remember
      but you refill it,
and what is not returned,
      the obvious appeal to living—
or at least persisting—it all wants loudly out—
      so where is the civility in this?
It was once perhaps more simple. Yes.
      That spring you went farther in
the orchard, felt the cool, how resistingly
      the new hull of an almond, cool
to the palm, so much so it ached to palm it
      or was itself an ache, enclosed
and private—seamlessly green stone and
      not the soft dullness you’d imagined
but nonetheless plain—small, not insufferable
      weight—just to hold it—before
even putting it down your throat—felt civil.

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