Children knock on my door,claiming to have raked my maple leavesfor the fair price of one crisp dollar.That’s when I make up something goodto tell them. For example, the tale whereI cannot give them one of my dollarsbecause a giant ear broke into my house last nightand sucked up every noise,even those beyond the range of human hearing,and since everyone knows I navigateby bite-sized bursts of soundemitted by certain nose-hairs,and since all my dollars flit around the houselike drunk moths, obviouslyI cannot locate said dollarsand must accept aforementioned yard-rakingas a gift. There is nothing so beautifulas the double-headed silence of two children,unless it’s the way their gazesconnect in disbelief. Still,back they come almost every afternoon.Yes, I’m certain I’ve lived far too long,for some days after I’ve unraveledsome whopper about a giant rat, let’s say,who relishes the juicy eyeballs of children,or some fiery-eyed horse with the wings of a dragonand hooves of thunder,I nevertheless drop one of my crumpled dollarsinto each of their tiny palms.No wonder they return, dumpinghumongous bags of golden maple leaves onto my lawnand raking them up again.I fear every creased and rumpled dollarin every room and pocket in my houseis doomed. For I pay the price of a good rakingagain and again. The soundof feet kicking up leavesis as good as breathing deep—breathing long.
“Dollars” from THE HORSE WHO BEARS ME AWAY: by Jim Peterson.
Published by Red Hen Press September 22nd, 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Jim Peterson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Jim Peterson has published a novel and seven full-length poetry collections, most recently The Horse Who Bears Me Away from Red Hen Press in 2020 and Speech Minus Applause from Gunpowder Press in 2019. His collection of short stories, The Sadness of Whirlwinds, will be published by Red Hen late in 2021. He retired as Coordinator of Creative Writing at Randolph College in 2013 and remains on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing. He lives with his charismatic, three-legged Corgi, Mama Kilya, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
"I have been a follower of Jim Peterson’s work for almost four decades and have rarely read a poem of his that did not surprise me. The poems in The Horse Who Bears Me Away are no exception. In flights of lyric glory and narratives that gallop heedlessly forward, these poems offer the delight of 'knowing who we are and who we’ll never be.' Here are new delights. Draw close and savor them."
—Al Maginnes, author of The Next Place
"This is the work of a mature poet who has risen to new heights. There’s heartbreaking beauty in these words—and in the feelings and insights behind them. On page after page, Jim Peterson grabs the treacherous, turning world by the throat and forces out its secrets. If you want to know what poetry can do for the spirit, read this book. Then read it again, and be even more thankful."
—Clint McCown, author of The Dictionary of Unspellable Noises