Lee Peterson


- for Dorothy Wilson Peterson, 1916-2010

What I want is to see your face,
                  in a tree, in the sun coming out,
                         in the air.
                                      -Jalal al-Din Rumi


I step a blue heel onto the desert
moving towards her. There are stars
of course and flesh between.
Thick glove of space—element thread.

Inside some cactus fruit I can’t find,
she waits. My arms glow moon white
searching—Don’t go.


One step, another step. It moves so thick
and slow—limbs under water.

Lipstick in purse,
                         bright on thin lip.
                                      Sweet—powder, cloth.

She lay there all night : this (one) night,
that (two), then four. I want—I want—
beating at the door.


Blue bird. Yellow bird. Red bird.
You never got to touch my child,
land your papery hand on her corn silk hair
—her eyes, your eyes. Blue bird.


I read to you that night
over the thinnest of lines—
                  I want to be with Moses.
And the bells rang inside your tin breath
rising, your wooden breath falling.

Matins: Volta​

Each morning we walk uphill
to where the graveyard fence
draws its terrestrial line.

The stone markers slope down valley.
The mountains beyond rise green
or white or gold to meet whatever
cloud or star or sun hovers there.

Sundays the streets fill with cars
—Catholics at mass. So many
well behaved children. So much sin.

For my part I have a love that’s
drenched my flesh and days. That moved
through me to make her—child at my side
now on one foot, now another.

Now one foot, we round the block—
now another, a full square. Gray mass of clouds,
wind on our faces and hands. Yellow leaf, you
pick up to show me. Yes, I see it so clearly.

Lee Peterson is the author of Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia (Kent State University Press). Her poetic, research, and community interests center on issues of human rights, displacement and migration, motherhood, and the female body and female desire. She teaches at Penn State and lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, the novelist Steven Sherrill, and their eleven-year-old daughter, Esmée.