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cate peebles / two poems

Pack Light

Forgive me for I have slipped entire nights into the waistband of my champagne satin slacks that slink but do not wrinkle; looted violet mornings tucked under my sleeve, a weightless cheat sheet bleeding through love notes folded easily in my pockets next to a passport and random keys; forgive me for I have singed my tongue on husbands singing along with slip- stream; forgive me my hours lost vs. hours gained, my gift shop mathematics and departure gate aubades, every state bird imprinted postcard now feathers inside a shoe box. Bodies become vapor; I confess, departure is relief. This morning outside the Hotel de Dieu perched on my purple suitcase, clothes wound tightly into tidy apocryphal scrolls, I peel an orange, its rind one solitary spiral, a universe, until it tears apart in my slick hands and I suck all I can from those plump marmalade moons, feel how citrus stings my raw cuticles—I spit pips into the koi pond watching sleek electric ghosts surface, gold mouths gaping: we want we want we want—open to whatever falls next from the sky.


Solar Plexus Elegy

Waiting for the light to change, I’d like to

be told exactly what to do next with my

feet. Decaying bouquets in the crosswalk,

pockets stuffed with boarding passes

and smudged cocktail napkins—all the old

ways of getting somewhere are crumpled

kindling. Nobody’s out so I keep talking

to the sun. A lump of coal grows hot

in my throat as a boy walks by with

his invisible dog on a visible leash

his face cinched with a yellow handkerchief

that reminds me what burning houses

we’ve become. A haze of roasted honeysuckle

thrown onto the burning roads with a twist

of jet fuel. I sweat through my blouse

and a wet red arrow appears on my chest

the kind with flames shooting out the tip

engulfing my limbs and I am a walking

fiery dove tree. My fire says save me! save

me! As a ceiling fan spins behind my eyes

spreading torched petals in circles. The light is

about to change, white electrons fizz. I hiss

my name into ashy blades till it flares, it shreds

and sizzles—an oracle swallowing snow.


Cate Peebles is the author of the poetry collection Thicket, selected by Eric Baus and Andrea Rexilius as the winner of the Besmilr Brigham Award and published by Lost Roads Press in 2018, and several chapbooks, including The Woodlands (winner of the Sixth Finch chapbook prize, 2016) and James (dancing girl press, 2014). Her chapbook, Revenge Bodies, won the 2023 Snowbound Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Her poems have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in The American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, DIAGRAM, Ploughshares,South Dakota Review, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She coedits the poetry magazine, Fou (, and can be found online at She is a museum archivist and currently lives in the Brandywine Valley on Lenape land.

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