Farah Peterson
| poetry


October garden, mostly dead
Thyme sprawling incense underfoot
And, of course, the marigolds
Crazed stems, jungle cluster
Bright torches glowing as from the well of a spiral stair
These I follow
Circling down and
Bumblebees, come
Honey bees, come
A little pin of a bee I cannot name
And comes the carrion-eater
The quilted monarch, settling
To velvet-gloved applause
In his train comes, too, a familiar
A stout, brown, four-winged butterfly
Come to impel me back in time
And force memory to surprised utterance

We used to catch this kind
Kerry and I, a kid
Who was violent and whom no one else liked
There were marigolds there, too
Along the side of our playground
And these fat moths were easy to catch
Either in cupped hands or
By pinching the wings between fingers
So many wings stripped to translucency
The powder from those wings covering our palms
Our game until my family moved away
Leaving him and his violence
And his reasons for it behind

Will this be the afterlife, then?
Inscrutable monarch, votary guide
The shades of those I’ve hurt
Or left or, uncocooning, pushed aside?
Will I remember then
As I do now, indulgently,
No more than the pain I caused
With hands too childish to retain the stain?

Or will there be shame?

Farah Peterson’s work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and The Threepenny Review, and has been collected in The Best American Magazine Writing. She is a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.

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