Echo Before the Echo
God wasn't my father, so I kept lookoutfor him while he went with women who weren't his wife. I wasn'this desire, so when I got caught,nothing kept mefrom punishment, and my tonguefound a new home at the bottomof a river already rich with victimsand fish. We were neveras together as the night I lost my voicefor hiding his pleasure,his going so far into the body of a mortaland coming out, his masqueradeof manliness as masculinity wasn't enough.His fingers on herwatery gown made currentof that river,one rivulet of strap, and then another,and then the girl was done, the bedof that river unmade,if you want to keepthat metaphorand I do.I like a metaphor to stayconventional, to have been used. I ranto my mothersince I'd woken without speaking.When she looked into my mouth,she gasped. I sawher openmouth ringed in teeth lose allits rose and close, her hopesfor me dashed. I was pasteven a "shouldn't have done,"past beingsent to sleep without dinner. I callthis growing up. You have to paybut never to the right person. She had stayedup all night, waitingfor me. I loved my mother,but lost my languagefor a trashy god, and that's the truth.So I learned to listenagain. It meant to translatewildly. To imitate is neverenough for the listenerwho desiresparticipation. I gainedthe powerto repeat, repetitionbecame a way of life,I will always be in schoolI became required to replyin exactly the words l heard.Everything in me, of its ownvolition, would straintowards the intonation the words had firsttime around. My interpretationmeant my wildtranslation. It would alwaysbe inside and against.You should see a girl's body outsideher dress but not be ableto say what you have seen.That is decorum. I can't rememberwhether my mother said this:imitationdoes not copy material but continuesit, giving shape to the spirit of its making, as if the mindat last became a pair of hands.And if a god said this, remember: I am using my own mouth to say what he has said.
Excerpted from A PIECE OF GOOD NEWS: Poems by Katie Peterson. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux February 26th 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Peterson. All rights reserved.
A rich and challenging new collection from the young award-winning poet
In those days I began to see light under every
bushel basket, light nearly splitting
the sides of the bushel basket. Light came
through the rafters of the dairy where the grackles
congregated like well-taxed citizens
untransfigured even by hope. Understand I was the one
underneath the basket. I was certain I had nothing to say.
When I grew restless in the interior,
the exterior gave.
Dense, rich, and challenging, Katie Peterson’s A Piece of Good News explores interior and exterior landscapes, exposure, and shelter. Imbued with a hallucinatory poetic logic where desire, anger, and sorrow supplant intelligence and reason, these poems are powerful meditations of mourning, love, doubt, political citizenship, and happiness. Learned, wise, and witty, Peterson explodes the possibilities of the poetic voice in this remarkable and deeply felt collection.
“Currency, as both coin of the realm and concept of exchange, haunts and animates the poems in Katie Peterson’s probing new book, A Piece of Good News, her fourth collection. From this rich literal and figurative vein, Peterson mines the many forms of interchange—cultural, economic, familial, linguistic, political, sexual—that color our lives as individuals and as members of clans, couples, marriages, nation-states and workplaces.”
“In the fourth collection from Peterson, a typical poem moves by visceral detail rather than by association or logic, with many spectacular arrivals that overwhelm the journey . . . A poem called ‘The Sentence’ is indeed one sentence that climbs gorgeously to the top of a mountain, exposing glacier, lake, and wildflower . . . These poems burst into consciousness: a child meets John Lennon through her mother’s tears at his death, knives and scissors are the implements of love. The heart of the collection is 'The Massachusetts Book of the Dead,' a sequence of haiku-like poems that navigate the aftermath of a mother’s death: ‘Her shopping list, years after she was gone./ The pleasure of organizing need.’”
“[A Piece of Good News], dedicated to [Peterson's] husband and created in memory of her mother, is written from the perspective of one who barely survived a devastating blow and who is now ruminating on her loss. Coping with daily life, Peterson keeps an eye on the past . . . Peterson uses words as a videographer employs details and images. She slows the pace here and quickens it there, all the while building the evocative moment in which she doesn't so much remember as seek the meaning of her memories. Accessible to all readers.”
—C. Diane Scharper