by Kate Peterson

  1. It was not sudden
  2. the windowless room
  3. with only their black pupils showing
  4. so none of them were smiling
  5. even if they were.
  1. It was gradual
  2. down, down, down
  3. nerves gone dark-
  4. and silent, flailing
  5. their yellow arms
  6. set free from the tight pack
  7. of bone and vein.
  1. The blade made a pulling sound
  2. as it opened me. There was
  3. a stretching — epidermis, dermis,
  4. subcue. A pulling — forceps, clamps,
  5. chisels. My bones,
  6. as they were scraped away
  7. made sounds likes stones
  8. rubbed together under great pressure,
  9. a spinning, grind,
  10. bits floating in the air
  11. so I knew then, why the masks
  12. were so necessary, in part
  13. to keep my calcium
  14. out of their soft, pink lungs.
  1. And next, my sacrum. O Holy
  2. holy bone severed by men
  3. who do the divine, breaking
  4. into the bodies of children.
  1. When they were done, after the whining saw,
  2. the grafting, the piling on,
  3. there was the fire, string, paper tape,
  4. and my skin, gauzy, silver,
  5. never quite the same.
  1. On horses we call this flesh
  2. proud, and this was my happy thought,
  3. the one the surgeon asked me to find
  4. before a nurse slipped plastic
  5. over my face, blew in chemical air.
  1. It was riding my old Palomino
  2. into the woods that last time,
  3. before they broke me, to fix me again,
  4. marked me a brave little girl with an old soul.
  1. My surgeon stepped close to me,
  2. and I felt if it weren’t for the gloves
  3. he would have stroked my forehead
  4. with the back of his hand
  5. the way they touch horses in films.
  1. Was he proud
  2. of the way he could save me?
  3. Did he imagine me someday
  4. riding back into those woods
  5. with a strong, unbroken spine?
  6. A thick, silver scar
  7. across my back?
  1. Did he pray he wouldn’t kill me?
  2. I’m sure he knew
  3. better than that. A man of
  4. medicine, of blood and bone and flesh,
  5. proud flesh, to be doing the work
  6. we call on gods to do,
  7. to pull children open
  8. at the small of their backs
  9. and leave them shining.
Packingtown Review – Vol.8, Winter 2016/2017

Kate Peterson earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University where she now teaches composition. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming from Sugar House Review, Aethlon, Glassworks, and The Sierra Nevada Review, among others. Her chapbook Grist is the winner of the 2016 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Prize and is out now.

  1. Evan Steuber
    Plated Glassfiction