Catherine Pierce’s most recent book of poems is The Tornado Is the World (Saturnalia, 2016); she is also the author of The Girls of Peculiar (Saturnalia, 2012) and Famous Last Words (Saturnalia, 2008). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Ploughshares, Boston Review, A Public Space, FIELD, and elsewhere.
Poem for Right Now
In protest I say the word iridescent.
In protest I say the word vesper.
In protest I say that I am in love
with this day, this exact day, this rain
on the thousands of dead leaves
in my backyard and the mourning dove
and the faint growl of the garbage truck
a few blocks over. I am in love with it.
In fucking love. It’s true that now
a mushroom cloud billows behind my eyes
all day. It’s true I fall asleep drafting letters
in my new language of pitchforks.
I know the chopping block is vast. I know
it has room and stomach for everything.
But my tongue and my head are mine.
So in protest I say the word liquefy.
In protest I say the word gloaming.
In protest I will remember how once
my friend and I walked through an alley
in a strange city, and my friend wore
a paper dragon in her hair, and the city
was five o’clock gold all around us.
In protest I say the word dragon.
There are days I’ve carried like candles
to light the rest of my life, and I will not
let the new days snuff them out, though
the new days are trying. Watch me hold
a decade-ago snow night, moon-bright
and silent, right next to my hammering rage.
Watch me house halcyon next to protocol,
lagoon next to constituent. I am trying
to become a contradiction machine.
I am poorly oiled, but every day I creak
awake again. The rain is heavy now
against my screened-in porch,
and the gutter that years ago my husband
patched with duct tape is still holding.
At this point, repaired is more accurate
than patched. It’s still holding, and in protest
I marvel over that. In protest I marvel.
In protest I say incandescent, liminal, charcuterie,
embrace. I think acquiescence is a beautiful word,
too, but in protest I put it away. There are
other beautiful words. Like lunar. Like
resistance. Like love, like fucking love.
Dear high school marching band drum line
cadencing through the summer evening
from a mile away, please hold me here.
Let your sound so gold and bright
be a tether. Keep me from drifting again
into that space where I don’t know anything
but the earthquake magnitude of my love
for my loves and the spidersilk thin web
by which I’m knotted into my life. Dear UPS
delivery knock, remind me of where I live—
this sturdy house with a red door, an aging roof.
Dear student stopping by with a citation question
we’ve covered twice in class, thank you
for pulling me back from the antigravity.
Who can sustain in that vast floating, so full
of stars but endless? Dear public radio
segue music, hook and hold me. Dear hashtag,
dear late night sketch, dear photo of a friend’s
new pitbull pup, truss me right to this earth.
Dear caterwauling fire truck in my rearview.
Dear tailless calico peering in my window.
Dear child needing milk or Goldfish
or to know how eardrums work, let me sit
on the kitchen floor with you. Let’s notice how
we’re both right here. Dear automatic car lock,
as I’m walking away, I’ll press the button.
Honk once to remind me I haven’t disappeared.