Project Description

Three Poems by Brooks Peters

 

Mirage

I think her name was Veronique,
that French student from Paris
who interned at Vogue.
She stayed with us that weekend
the summer I turned fifteen.

Here’s the scene:
small saltbox cottage
set high among the dunes.
In the spare room,
facing the brush out back.

Cushions strewn
atop the old divan;
she, cat-like, sipping iced cafe,
curled up with the Times,
the only sound, a fan at her feet.

Then swift — criss-cross —
her white skirt fell open,
unveiling once pale thighs
now pink, and beyond that,
shimmers of squid ink black.

She laughed, sans nuance,
toyed with the organdy folds.
That pillow shaped like a buoy
slid, then cartwheeled onto
the knitted oval rug.

I turned away,
my gray eyes staring,
as if through gauze,
at the spray of flowers
on the wicker stand.

I thought of you there,
in the other room, waiting unaware,
and wondered (as even now!) father
what mysteries unshared
between us were lost, never missed.

In time I heard a hush
as she rose, her steps
soft amidst the silence.
The door shut behind her
like a button fastened tight.

Moving to the window sill,
I adjusted the blinds
to scan the blank sky.
Shards of lime green light
skidded along the shaded scrub.

And from the beach,
not far below,
a child’s shrill call
echoed hard
against the cliff.

 

 

The Dead Cow

All was green and gray.
And wet. Clovered.
The sun was scarce,
that Irish summer.

Earlier that day
I’d seen two fairy rings
on the lawn. But now
it was empty, washed away.

Hours until tea.
Bored with books,
I headed out,
far from the cottage
and its peat fire
down the ancient dirt path
that rimmed the outer field.

A stone idly kicked
tumbled forward, leading the way.
It skipped then disappeared
into the thick moist berm.

Your words echoed
like that rock,
skewed by force
without aim or goal
now carelessly lost.

Up ahead,
a dozen yards or more,
slanting to the side,
loomed a vast shape,
oddly still.
Dark earth tones,
like a glacial boulder.

As I approached, I imagined it
was a wool blanket thrown over
a workman’s ditch. I steeled
myself. I had not yet found
my way around village folk.

I almost turned back
but the sound held me fast.
A vibrant buzzing that grew louder
as I drew closer.
Some frantic machine
sawing through a trunk.

Standing beside the object
its form finally became clear.
No worker, no tree.
Just an animal’s body,
as big as a boiler,
lying beside the road.

Flies, seething, circled
over the corpse.
The beast faced away, its limbs
sticking out like table legs,
its belly obscenely bloated,
its broken, crenellated backbone
recalling a dinosaur’s spine.

The dead cow’s coat
was mud-stained, damp from rain.
I circled round to take it all in.
Its body seemed twice normal size,
but the head, which was already
massive, appeared natural,
as if it were alive.

Black eyes stared up at me,
gelid orbs mirroring the sky above.
The large jaw sagged, hung open,
coated with a sickly foam.
Out of the nostrils, black horse flies,
and their cousins, climbed,
occupied with chores.
The stench of decay was sweeter
than I’d have imagined.

Heading back to the cottage,
I glanced at the chimney.
Swirls of black smoke
struggled against the heavy air,
shrouding the stones as they fell.

 

 

Catafalque

The black-clad crowd, well-heeled,
warm under the high Western sun,
snakes past the pitch-dark bier,
missals draped in beads pressed tight.

Each soul pauses, genuflects,
poses as the figure lies in state.
Some linger, faces veiled,
grief, and tears perhaps, unseen.

Embroidered bands, somber ensembles,
march by, silent as embankments,
brass tucked under tautly tailored arms,
chins lashed with slick obsidian straps.

The child spies a fallen rose
atop the age-smoothed marble step.
He skids on polished soles
to grab it, incautious of thorns.

Reaching up high, gingerly,
he replaces the long green stem,
crowned with crushed red petals,
onto the ornate yet still display.

An aura of rich attar rests
on his thin white fingertips.
He smells them, and leans in close
to touch his mother’s coffin.

A moment, then the boy turns,
head bent down, and moves on
beyond the glaring cameras
and breathless throng.

 

 


Poems by Brooks Peters