Brahms for Small Pianist in a Police State
The walls lost some white and became gray instead.
A portion of the white drifted off somewhere—
The rest gathered on the floor and became pressed
Into the cracks in the linoleum. The girl holds her fingers,
As if they are feathers coming to rest on the keys,
As if they are magic, as if they will shock her
With electricity, with bright sparks.
Her eyes that rest on the walls are so still you
Decide she can’t see. She is perfectly present
Like a blind person—there is no reason
To see this room anyway. It has no window and one door.
Its single bulb buzzes. She taps her fingers
Without conscious thought—F, A minor, F;
F, A minor, F; F, A minor, F; F, A minor, F—
Speeding to a hundred beats a minute. She stops
And wonders if he would have been kind to her,
Would have taught her, would have given her sweets,
Would have made this room into a thing beautiful.
The Fish Fossil
Swimming the stone ocean,
The pressure relentless and blinding,
This place first tore most of the scales,
And folded the dorsal though to travel here,
The body doesn’t need to be hydrodynamic.
It needs only to have existed
And to have passed the divide
While trying to move sand
Through clogging gills.
Letting go only moved him
To a new current, one far slower
Than leaves become coal,
And leaving him risen with the anticline
Nearly exposed by a road cut
On I-24 in East Tennessee.
The stone ocean preserves him,
Doesn’t threaten him with predators,
Doesn’t bring death in a red tide.
Judging by the bend of his body,
He seems to swim in a circle,
But he is really moving in a line
Straight ahead, a line more sensical
Than was his wandering for food
Or his turning with the silver school
That flashed beneath the surface
Of the shallow inland sea.
A Pleistocentic Epistle
A man who today might
Carry a briefcase
Or wear a preacher’s collar
Knew a recipe
Of charcoal, red ochre,
And burnt sparrow bones,
And he pressed his hands
Into the paste paint.
He pressed his livid palms
To the sandstone wall
Forward in time—
A code tapped
On the cell wall—
Fading, so that we
Might walk by
And not know.
Until, wet with rain
The stone face,
His hand appears again.
ROSS PETERS’ poems have appeared or will soon appear in Terminus, Birmingham Poetry Review, Broad River Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and Broad Street. His first collection of poetry is entitled, The Flood is Not the River. Additionally, he contributed the forward, as well as the photography for Sacred Views of St. Francis: The Sacro Monte Di Orta (upcoming from Punctum Press) about a Franciscan pilgrimage site in Italy’s piedmont region. He lives in Memphis, TN.