I Begin to Forget the World Without Her

Lee Peterson

In our room a forestof breath—yours, mine, hers.Blue scrim, night's shadow cast over us.Still, the breath is lightand her night noises—little birdsescaping the cage of her small lungs.They fly—alight—around the room.Her moans and sighs, her coos perchon the ceiling fan.                   I pluck them off one by one,cup them, say:                    Shh, come down.

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Lee Peterson is the daughter of artists and architects and grew up in New Jersey, first in a house where T.S. Eliot once lived, then in a converted nineteenth century chocolate factory. Her poem “Quartet for the End of Time” won the 2023 Poetry International Prize. Peterson is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia, winner of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize (Kent State University Press) and In the Hall of North American Mammals (Cider Press Review), as well as a chapbook, The Needles Road (Seven Kitchens Press). Her work has appeared in Verse Daily and such journals as Arts & Letters, Bellingham Review, Chautauqua, Natural Bridge, Salamander, Southern Humanities Review, and THRUSH. Her research, writing, and community interests center on issues of human rights, displacement and migration, motherhood, and the lived experiences of women and girls. She teaches writing at Penn State University and lives with her husband and daughter in Central Pennsylvania.

cover of In the Hall of North American Mammals

San Diego, California

“The poems of Lee Peterson’s In the Hall of North American Mammals explore the haunting, dangerous borders between story and reality, domestic and wild, mother and child. These poems are meditations crafted in the terror of familial love. And they are bold navigations, crossing liminal spaces, using a luminous intensity of voice to map intimacy, mortality. With lyric acuity they sound the seams between worlds, revealing mother as both “witch and protector,” the story and its teller, one who must perform on the highwire and pray for feet fastened to the ground. Peterson’s deft poems cross a ropewalk of mother-love, knowing what they dare. Hold your breath for their fierce power.”
—Sally Rosen Kindred

“A grandmother, the wolf, and a landscape of hills lit by dusk and snow populate Peterson’s radiant new collection. Frequently dwelling in the world of fairytale, Peterson trains her lens on mother-love and the sublime act of mothering: ‘With one hand I lift you up/with the other I set you down, set you out.’ Showcasing Peterson’s spare images and Dickinsonian-dash-inflected lines, In the Hall of North American Mammals evokes the fierce and tender tether between mother and child.”
—Shara McCallum

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