Katie Peterson

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Katie Peterson

The Walk to the Road, When Dinner Was Over

            “It’s a strange image,” he said, “And strange persons you’re telling of.” “They’re like us,” I said.
            —Plato, Republic

Together we watched the stars
come out in their
inequality – Venus at the edge
of the valley and lower
than Mars, who, for a time, upstaged the moon.

I walk alongside the barbed wire, grateful
for what I can’t control,
the alignment of your thoughts
with mine. It’s delicate.

Men abandon women
for years, or socially, and do you think
women can’t feel it?

But oh the sweetness of one
man overrides the rest and no
argument can undo it.

Do you know the soul doesn’t
scatter, isn’t a thing
that can be scattered?

The soul doesn’t scatter
after death but goes wherever
it came from so it matters
when you die if you’ve tried
to have an imagination.

Most men say they would
give birth if they could.

When you are old, you say,
you’ll go to your children
in their households
with tools, until you can’t.

You’re going further.
The place in the mind where memory
gets kept. Go if you need to.

One lamb escaped from
the slaughter, she’s in the pen
with the whole summer, a whole
Sierra in her eyes at sunset.

It is not advice I give you
but the kind of blessing that comes
from the bewildered heart – if you want to walk
through a field of flowers
you must also walk at night.

The friends you lost, like bodies
buried, navigate the earth,
they’re walking, or they’re at a dinner
party and you are furthest
from their mind.

You can always look at the moon,
crescent moving
into Leo, and somehow
this is good for you?

You can do
things to the moon in the desert,
you can make it stand
still, you can make it move.

You climbed the mountain with me, a recovering
moralist. You wanted to stay
on the path, I wanted to find it.

November. Making a list
of people who can be trusted—
the one who said the owl’s who
woke her up
from a dream of a winged horse.

I trusted the poet who wrote,
death is harder for the dying,
though it hurts the living more.

The place you imagine people go
when all of this is over, no one lies
there, no one misleads you
the way they do on earth.

I wanted to know how to behave
when the worst isn’t over
but the best hasn’t shown up yet.

I don’t believe the argument ended,
Try to be good versus say what’s true

I’m standing in the dead center,
that place called the middle distance.
Taking the place of heaven,
the mountains we could die in
if we traveled without water.

Sound rustles through the ranch.

Don’t blink. The beautiful
is sometimes the good. Don’t get
excited. Not all the time.

They won’t say thinking
was the only thing I did. I metabolized
what other people thought
into the facts of what they felt.

There’s no one for miles.
That road leads
nowhere, into the mountains,
to an old mining claim
populated on paper, given a mayor,
used for a voting scam.

We could just become shapes
on a night like this, we could walk
into space and become clouds.

They will say to us, what
did you do in those days
to survive?
We married each other.

Katie Peterson reads “The Walk to the Road, When Dinner Was Over”



It is as lofty as they come.
It touches everyone.
It’s like God – it disappears.
It wants us to see ourselves.
Its absence is clear.

Katie Peterson reads “Fog”


Katie Peterson’s sixth book, Fog and Smoke, is forthcoming from FSG in early 2024. She directs the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at UC Davis where she is Professor of English.