A poem by Peter Mishler


How incomplete the deliverance

when I’d learned to clear the waters

while guarding myself against

the pitchfork that awaited me at home.

I was thrilled atop the mountain

but I betrayed myself,

disheartened by the weather,

its spell of cold water

and I returned to the shelter of the boat.

Torture was its custom.

At birth I’d disciplined myself

never to eye the boatsmen’s bodies,

the various lusts steaming from them,

though all the while they sang their dirge

surpassing my method of eclipse.

What effulgence I possessed, they’d sung,

and intuition and my mother’s breast,

and as they stood above me

forcing the dove meat to my mouth

they told me I could be drowned

for my fears alone

as all false reckoners are drowned.

I had only to wait

for the dominant green of the world,

to enter its republic,

yet my wings lunged rapidly

in an appeal to gain their favor.

They faced me toward the sun.

I knew I could be mastered,

that they had spent few diamonds for me,

but I was of good natural health.

Into my cage they held their tinctures

and I dipped my beak in them.


*  *  *

Peter Mishler is the author of Fludde (Sarabande Books, 2018), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Kansas City.  

Categories: Poetry