He lost his job. He didn’t know what to say to his family
so he sat in the train station all afternoon
and told each person waiting a different story.
She made a quilt for her baby. She had to sell it for money
and since it worked the first time, she did it again.
Now she sells everything she makes to other people.
He didn’t have enough to bring his parents over
so they died in a place where he could never visit them.
He had to marry her to keep her here.
Rain, snow on the monument to the boats that settled
the fishing town on the Northern spit
in a state most of us will never visit.
More snow on that pass where the people died
and had to eat pine branches, then each other,
enough wind to make the government warn us.
She grew up on that land but never owned it.
He owned it years ago but lost it in a game.
She didn’t grow up here but planted
poppies, wild iris, sun cups, lupines, those native
plants you see, she planted them all,
seeds she ordered from another state,
she had an idea the soil could be reminded,
not that the soil had ever lived for pleasure,
she thought she could make an agreement,
could marry the beautiful to what nature could tolerate.
He couldn’t help his children with their homework.
She never had children, only ideas.
Together the two of them built this house
and let it rot in rain and weather.
Were they taking their loneliness out on each other?
Did they simply not understand abundance,
the way in which it asks you to quit asking?
He loved his partner’s dogs more than his partner
and they were very beautiful, who could blame him,
a silver grey sheepdog and a spotted heeler.
It made her so mad when he went to that church,
she quit getting up in the morning.
She decided the world should just be night.
When they were in public, he said, only speak English.
The boats they used to own ended up firewood.
What beautiful fires our houses made that winter.
Born in Menlo Park, California, Katie Peterson is the author of the poetry collections This One Tree (2006) which was awarded the New Issues Poetry Prize by Willian Olsen, Permission (2013), and The Accounts (2013) which won the Rilke Prize. Her new collection, A Piece of Good News, will be published in February 2019. She has received grants from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the Director of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at the University of California at Davis.