Kate Peper: three poems



Now Is the Season: Loma Alta, California


It’s good to forget my winter mind.

Good to confuse the longer light

with grace and to lose my dog

in tall grasses.

I tramp past wild iris and milkmaids.

A wren startles the air with a beak

full of what I swear is my dog’s shed undercoat.

Gray squirrels race up a bay trunk— all zip

and blur. Quail percolate behind a live oak

and in a shaft of light a fawn grazes.

It’s always like this with me, isn’t it?

Every year I fall in love with spring,

the portal to a peaceable and lush kingdom.

But nature does what it does:

the young deer’s ears will prick

at my dog’s approach

just as these green slopes

will crackle with heat come July

and fires will bloom with frenzy everywhere.

This sweetness can’t be held.

But for now, let me

mistake this season

a while longer.


Ode to the Moment When Nothing Happens

Thank you for this:

Mild sunshine on my arms.

The even pok, poks from a hidden tennis court.

You undress my fears.

You are a scaffold built

from all my exhales.

Somewhere, someone’s cocking a gun

with its safety off, a boy is yanked

under a sneaker wave,

mail thunks onto the floor

of a home only feet away

from a woman’s body.

I’ve known moments of helplessness

when fear stutters

my heart’s beating.

It’s my limbs flailing, my lungs burning.

Those Moments of Everything Bad Happening

seem to stay for days.

Then I pray for your coming,

dear Moment When Nothing Happens.

Bring your blandness, I plead,

even your pal, Boredom.

Take up residence, spread out.

Stay a while.

And here you are now.

A Steller’s jay occasionally dazzles the air.

My dog shrugs off the afternoon, her limbs twitch—

dream squirrel.

I lie back, well-thumbed mystery in hand,

the air full of reprieve.



Memento Mori

A heavy rock squats

near my garden’s entrance.

When I’m feeling dull, I lift

a jagged corner, letting the sunshine

surprise whatever lives beneath.

Months ago, I discovered two newts

sharing the under-the-rock-darkness

with a scorpian.

The newts snoozed,

but the scorpian squirmed into a hole,

claws up, pleading and shy.

It’s early autumn, and the sedums are pink

and swarmed with bees. The hyssop

is busy with hummingbirds dipping

into its mauve trumpets.

When I lift the rock now, there are three

scorpians and no newts. All jab

their pinchers up and curl their tails.

The biggest is covered with something pale, alive.

I bend closer—hatchlings.

I think how quickly I could kill them all

with my adze, but I put the rock down slowly.

I need this reminder death is here, almost

contained and so alive in my garden.



Kate Peper lives in Northern California where she paints watercolors, hikes and writes. Her chapbook, Dipped In Black Water, won the New Women’s Voices Award from Finishing Line Press. She is a five-time Pushcart nominee and her poems can be found in Baltimore Review, Gargoyle, Rattle, Tar River Review and others. www.peperpoetry.com