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Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor believes every poem occurs on three levels: object, perception of object, perception. These correspond to what it is, what you think it is, what you think. Language is a tension between instinct and examination and as a poet Peter tries to capture this tension in words. What draws words out from him? History, people, books, paintings, and an abiding belief that his poetry will grow into the universe of his imagination and that his imagination will lead him to other universes. That’s why Peter writes: to share and to connect. It’s that simple.


Desire Needs No Image

Angel on a blanket, child
odalisque, she pouts in rouge,
then smiles, except for the eyes—
little fish darting
from camera to command,

no, this way,
good girl,

relaxing her with approval
while indifferent lenses
click and click and click
her soul away,

harsh lights
capturing red fingers
on shadowed skin,

her eyes,
turned upwards looking for stars,
can only stare through
the brave meniscus of her tears.


The brain’s a room where ideas
file languid and recover until fear,
the white flame, creates burnt space.

The past is cinders, thought ashes.
Their dull roaring keeps me awake
beneath the skull’s electric crematorium.

I imagine whole decades burning
in a pure conflagration.

Abrupt as tinder, the mind ignites
its combustible tissues: neurons
melt into synapse, ions incinerate,

until the poem, hard as ceramic,
casts incandescent and cools
slowly in the ordinary cell.



sand from mars january 6, 1989

In the expanding universe of my left kidney,
calcium oxalate goes supernova and creates a new star.
Soon there are tiny planets in orbit around it.
There must be water.

We have to go in, the surgeon says,
it’s too big. I see light shining through
a heart-shaped galaxy on his x-ray
and wonder if he knows the name.

It’s just oxygen, a mask says, while another
injects me into my spacesuit and I awake
to the pneumatic hiss of weightlessness
gently rocking my legs.

How do you feel? a mask says.
Water, I dream.

Tonight I think we are ready for Mars, I tell her,
but we have to be back before bed.
My daughter beams. Tired of dusty moons
and comets, she loops the skipping rope safety line
through our basement chair rockets while I
check fuel levels in the Styrofoam engines.
We close our eyes against radiation before lift-off.

Through my visor I see other astronauts returning
and wonder if they were ready for Mars.
Water, a mask says, tethering me with a straw.

Passing through a stillness that awaits us,
we hold hands on the instrument panel
so I can feel my daughter’s tiny
course corrections before we land.

Bend down with me, I tell her,
and we’ll bring some back,
handing her the film canister. Later,
she labels and dates her precious grains.

How do you feel? the surgeon asks.
The star is gone, he beams,

only one tiny fragment left, and he
doesn’t think we have to go back.

I drive home wondering what the label says
and if he will remember the date.

The radio tells me they are getting closer now,
and building new ships. I smile,
wondering how surprised they will be.
They will find water, and new stars.

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