Laurel Peterson



A terrible year for a girl—on the bloody cusp—
the number of her witch-hood, thirteen black cats,
ringing her ankles like shackles as she counts out their treats.

It’s also the number for making a statement
against her boring, suburban parents
of Volvos and J. Crew and charter schools
and farmer’s markets with blood-red tomatoes
and phallic squash; a child who wants to paint
her room and fingernails black, sit in the dark
with needles and records and blood.

It’s the number hotels and office towers shun,
their elevators sliding from twelve to fourteen
as if she’ll miss the deception, not feel the same
frisson stepping onto fourteen as thirteen
that warns her the guy coming down the hall
intends robbery or rape.

The number not to have on a sports jersey,
license plate, Friday, anniversary, house, or
day of your entry into a crooked world.
It’s only one year, one floor. You can make it, girl.
If you’re lucky, it will pass with only your bleeding to mark it.


August Is like Sunday Night

Because the thing in your stomach feels as though the watermelon seed
you swallowed at the family picnic on the beach with your toes stretched
toward the Atlantic, while salt crusted your lips as if you had drunk
from the sea herself, and the sails on the horizon flung their wings wide in the wind
as if they had suddenly learned the definition of freedom:
That seed has grown like childhood’s fear of it,
the giant fruit pressing at your organs, at the fine wall of your skin
as it bustles and bows its way out of your body
to split its bloody new self on the sidewalk as if you had dropped it
on the way home from the market, and that split, sloppy melon feels,
you know it, like November,
when the dark advances from the horizon, relentless like age
advancing toward solstice—that long absence when you fear
the sun might quit burning right there,
at the edge of the world.


Lauren Peterson

Laurel Peterson served as editor of the literary journal Inkwell.  Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in many literary journals. Her book publications include two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (FLP, 2009), and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press, 2010), a mystery novel, Shadow Notes (BRP, 2016), and a full-length poetry collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” (Futurecycle, 2017). She currently serves as Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.



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