Pastoral

Kiki Petrosino

Where did it start? In a city of gardens & muck.
When I held someone close, in watery light.
We drank & I bled all the way home.Red-orange light on my legs. Oh, wow
that blink-blink of bright, that flip of the pulse.
Where did it start? In the garden, the muckwhere insects jumped in starry arcs. My body
took shape, then. A greenhouse I entered alone.
We drank & I bled all the way home.I wore so many clothes. Cotton, cotton, wool.
I burned in my skin like a stone. How exactly?
Where did it start? There, in the muckno one saw how we blazed into poppies.
Light raked through our bellies like combs.
We drank & I bled all the way home.Now, I blister up from bed. My love
is a silver cry in the light. O animal life
in a city of gardens & muck, you can startto itch. You jostle & fight, scrambling
for years up the hill of your life. You ask
Where does anything start? In muck. In a garden.
You drink the drinks & bleed. You’re foam.

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Kiki  Petrosino

Kiki Petrosino is the author of Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013) and Fort Red Border (2009), both from Sarabande Books. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, the New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House and online at Ploughshares. She is founder and coeditor of Transom, an independent online poetry journal. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville, where she directs the Creative Writing Program. Her awards include a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and research fellowships from the University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

In Witch Wife’s incantations, Kiki Petrosino summons history’s ghosts— the ancestors that reside in her blood and craft— and sings them vibrantly to life.

“Petrosino has long been one of my favorite poets, working her linguistic sorcery through the heart ‘s palette with aching joy and stinging creativity. Her words kindle. Her poems are pure fire. Witch Wife might be her finest burn yet.”
—Amber Tamblyn

“Kiki Petrosino ‘s lush and stunning Witch Wife is a hothouse in winter, incongruous and adamantly fertile, full of strange blossoms, site of refuge and danger… These are poems about what composes us—our names, our flesh, our vexed relationships to both—and about ambivalence turned glittering and feral, about the question of what the body can and cannot stomach.”
—Leslie Jamison

“[Petrosino] delights in unsettling the familiar with startling results, whether channeling Anne Sexton or William Blake. Her stylish innovation refashions traditional forms that insist on repetition… The binding spell of Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife conjures a good belly and a mouth not too pretty to sing.”
—Harryette Mullen

“These poems of the body, of the ecstatic utterance that ends in grief, or glory, or the ghost ‘s head turning toward us, seem to me to be an essential addition to this remarkable era of poetry we are in… This is a necessary book in a time of great uncertainty. It is a treasure.”
—Gabrielle Calvocoressi

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