Storytime | Paulann Petersen



An out-of-season perfume
chokes February's air. Hyacinth. Narcissus.
Fragrant flowers of ancient myth, they murmur
their stories of grief and regret. 
                                                       Hyacinth sprang
from the blood of a friend heedlessly slain.
Narcissus was born from the blindness
of self-absorption. Both now bloom too early
for even the bees, whose better instincts
keep them at home—
in decimated numbers. 
                                         These normally sodden
late weeks of winter unfold their preternatural tale—
page after page of dry, warm days having finally
given us pause. This once upon a time is a strange one
filled with sinking water tables. A raw earth
lies exposed, chapters from a shoreline's past
that have never—in our memory—
seen light before. 
                               Ours is the story
of the woodsman getting his wish, a magic axe
falling trees without pause—the hills in his wake
scabbed and bald. Ours is a tale of dragons—
sour beasts gone crazy to own what little gold
they don't already hoard. The fable
of Greed's Coronation, of Wisdom's Exile,
is our own—a plot whose ending
we know. 
                 Now we begin to listen,
each word settling in to unsettle us
as if we'd never heard it before.
Already we feel ourselves gone
speechless, our throats 
                                          tight with thirst.

                       —Paulann Petersen


One Small Sun, Salmon Poetry, 2019


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