Ordinary Things. Poetry by Karen Petersen

Ordinary Things

What’s in a house left behind
but the tenacity of objects:
a torn bedspread
put away like an admonition,
a post card from Paris
behind the dresser,
the dried beetle on the windowsill.

These things speak softly,
not like the robin’s relentless warbling,
leaves on a steep bank
–a cascade of gold coins,
or the gilt-winged dragonfly
skittering across the clotted mud:
the other side of a dusty window.

Past, present, future,
in doing the mundane tasks of daily life
we discover its deepest secrets.
The wisteria cracked the door frame,
and all I know of yearnings
and the weight of the world
comes in like sunlight through the glass. 

Where, Indeed

I’m living in a place
where the local radio station
breaks my heart every time.
I turn it on to find myself aching
in front of the red stop light,
surrounded by too many cars,
and after the light goes green,
I wonder, where should I go?
The clouds here are deceptive
seemingly infinite at times
but here comes the rain
and the sky lies over me darkly.

I feel like it’s a massive lid
that if I could push up against it
blue will appear. It is a somber day
but the clouds are not only oppressive
in the distance they are fluffy, teasing,
and the blue sky shines through
like some kind of hope.
Hope, my pacifier. Making me hungry.
I will go buy some groceries.

Outside the supermarket
in the empty florescent parking lot 
the tall middle-aged clerk
in his preppy jacket and loafers
is busy gathering all the discarded carts
into one long line that snakes its way
towards the automatic front doors.
It’s rumored he went to Yale,
cracked under the strain, 
and has been at this supermarket
for over thirty years now; 
it’s a simple life, no demands. 

The cashier inside by the soggy plants asks me,
“Have you seen any hummingbirds yet?”
And I think of those bright little birds, 
wings beating 80 times a second 
in order to stay alive.
And then I realize, I know that feeling,
I know that hummingbird,
with its fierce beating heart
bursting with love of the world
into the heaviness of early Spring.

Karen Petersen is due to be a judge of Poetry Out Loud in 2020

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