9.8 / August 2014

Five Poems

Reverse Ode: November

Blue sunlight, fields dilated       a little ghost
creation sent ahead               to wreck
the field daisies from their stems:       to teach them

what it feels to desire       and not possess. Groundwater
is the only oracle               I can trust
when there is nothing       to the surface but mud

and my footsteps       and the mortar holding
them together.               Energy in all my centers:
an untuned orchestra       before the curtain peels

its tangerine skin away.       Meadow mouth, why don’t you feel
the urge to bloom this morning?               Don’t let November leave
frosted bruises in its wake.       The delight

of rain distancing further               from itself,
running across the cheeks       of passing cars.
It is close               enough to return

full-stop, to invite       a circular, perennial
nature to govern my body:       not November. All night,
my dreams are tangled in the picket fence,       and ladybugs

pack themselves into pockets       of simple wind, slough
off layers of cold wings.       In the morning, they will settle,
habitual,       like spotted tomato skins on the frost.

The world unrestrained       might grieve. When the wind
passes over them, the empty       tree stumps desire voices again.
Their teeth have been knocked out.       A memory.


              for Talin Tahajian

Mother, I would not skin
              the bag of innocent capefish
                            to earn your kiss
              again, the lockturn key
to a house we remember
              only in postcards. I am not
                            simply the brittleness I learned
              by steeping in the evergreen lake
summers ago. My body, the color
              of a whisper to all those
                            knocking fish. There was
              no lock to turn, but inside
that house—heaving toward
              a sort of cure—the windows
                            broke, and then the shelves.

Elegy with Hundreds of Legs

A prophet crept up the stairs,
a flame. Mother, a circus hoop

rolling out the front door. Another
trick was my father, running

down our living room wall, a man
of feathers and wax. Upstairs,

the jars of leeches he lifted
in his youth from the lake broken

into color and species. Rows of weight
blackening to the same, preserved until

they weren’t. I took what mattered
into my sleeping mouth.

Digging Season

Mother left her last name in the garden.
Father, a lone ripple from the birdbath.

Two men shattered her bathroom window.
Mother heard the noise, then canned herself.

Mother planted the men who shattered
Father. With him, the window.

Mother carried the essence of the fireplace,
her smoke heavier than the ash widow breath

leaves in its wake. Mother shaved the mint
in the garden. She could never tolerate the smell.

Helen Keller Discovers Reflections

A frozen brook behind her retinas. Sign if she pleases above
the dotted line. A stampede of berries gone insane down
her left arm. Habit of recitation, flooding.

See: down by the river, where she used to pray. See: down
by the river, skirt tugging at the sides of the world
like freshwater in a tight corset of rocks. See: skirt on a hanger
in a polaroid.

It doesn’t take a prophet to see.

Tapestry of knives. Earth of paranoia. August the sweet.
Earth of misunderstanding. August an epidemic.

Wading, down by the river, why she used to pray.     See: day
like a flashbulb, the spine of the brook liberated, brook
slunk down with wisdom, flowing     see: the thing she used to want,

smearing like a clean face thrown into ripples. Downstream,
the girl cradles mirrors, plants them, hopes for change.

Peter LaBerge is a nineteen-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. His recent poetry appears in DIAGRAM, A-Minor Magazine, Word Riot, Weave Magazine, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in southwestern Connecticut, and currently serves as the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal.