Three Poems by Jesse Don Peterson

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Three Strains from adamsongs

If I were to coil the hairs
from my body into rope

I would make a fat cord
with the tiniest of reach

and nothing could be bound

If I were to drip my urine
where I stand with intention

I would watch it disappear into the ground
or meld with the rainwater running

down the oaks and nothing could be mine

If I were to exercise my mind
upon the riven rocks shorn by buffalo

I would understand my intellect
as a hummingbird caught up in a tornado

beating its wings on nothing but imagination

If I were to remember that muscle
is man’s greatest asset and

his greatest enemy which patterns

life into reciprocities and rhythms
I could align my heart’s churning

to my eventual disintegration

this song is not yet finished
even when there is nothing to add
to it

what is the promise of life
if not a smeared veneer of dust

loose and afloat amidst pollen



carried to the rock
glimmering skin
scent through the wort

is’t more important
to call you goat or know
you give milk?

names are the changing spaces
uses the reasons
what is seen between


as I have never wielded a knife
I can only imagine
what it must feel
in the resistance of skin pushing
back upon the blade

and the insistence of weight
behind the push into sodden flesh

there is illogic in the submission
of others, more than natural refusal
in helpless panic

when a factory no longer churns its product
there’s more to it than the remainder
the raw materials surrounding vacant spaces

more to sacrifice than killing others
for others
more than dying

all for others



stiff concentration required for surviving

if anything is perfect
it may all lie

in wifery and husbandry
in squishing snails loaded with eggs
in setting traps alongside the chicken coop
in wading flooded rivers and chemical imbalance
in decomposing

at all hours beasts come out to feed on the young while breasts come out to feed the
child, lonesome here/your abode is the death of flesh/breathing hearts

everything in retreat




Jesse Don Peterson lives in Salt Lake with his wife and daughter where he teaches writing and works in land conservation and management. He founded and currently edits the human ecology journal saltfront.

Black-and-white photo of live oaks courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.