I thought all life came from the alphabet

                         –from Pleasure Centers

I thought all life came from the alphabet
from numerals     peptides     counting petals for love
hallucinations     platelets stacked in the breakfront
that words smoothed over irritants with pearl
that salt over my shoulder seasoned danger to taste
that a glass door might close and trees and islands
might rush by soundlessly like remembered lives
like silence we have other names for     guilt was one
that made threatening worlds by itself
that everything was true     even a lie was a real lie
that a name we made up was like remembering
in detail someone we never knew
My own examples arriving nightly as if contracted
with Dream Trucking of Stockbridge and Locust Grove Georgia

I could get up early from another world and listen
study the bird books     the songs and calls
rendered phonetically the way my turn signal says
frisky frisky as I wait

I expected the purpose of consciousness was to recognize
poignancy as an antidote to the cool neutrality
of space and the flaming stars like bouquets
shipped in from Amsterdam and Oregon
the spider that dropped on a silk thread
and struggled in the tub

It is written it was said as a finality
even if the writer worked for the Black Duke
or the Chamber of Commerce
You have my word on it hand on it
a book a note a dying sun behind a cloud

Sometimes I thought what was there
left to talk about
then wisteria fell on the cushion
and my condition was upgraded
from swell to ecstatic

Allan Peterson is the author of five books, including Precarious (42 Miles Press), Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Poetry Series), a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle and Oregon Book Awards, and Other Than They Seem, winner of the Snowbound Chapbook Prize from Tupelo Press. He lives in Ashland, OR and Gulf Breeze, FL.