Urine and Other Poems


Paulann Petersen

Art by Gale Antokal



ancient cure for ringworm

solvent in the medieval
deep-sided laundry tub

eau d’excess
amber dram
liqueur of sharp chartreuse

the vein of gold
that takes my heat
out of me and down into air,
into the where of its plash

sunflower spurting
away from my body

my blood’s cider, my flesh’s brew

tincture of all
my body is

then isn’t anymore



A book of symbols tells me
gold is your excrement.
All this time, and me not knowing
I’ve been wearing your dung.
But could have known by just
looking closer. That gleam,
that readiness to flicker,
could come from only what you
were willing to expel.

Source of all light,
you give your waste away
so a bride can be given
away into marriage. Even now,
your precious castings
run circles around the base
of my left hand’s fourth finger.
With nothing less than this—
your star-scat—
I to him am wed.



—for my mother, Grace Whitman

On what will turn out to be your
early winter death-day,
I look out a window and see
what had early in May freighted itself
with purple incandescence, drenched itself
in high-priestess perfume. A lilac
at one branch’s tip—
now impossibly
in blossom.

Vastly early or late,
it bursts into my eyes:
an apparition beyond my ken.

No telling how I can tell,
but I know this day will unfurl
another blooming—
a terrible beauty so untimely
I will not outlive
its passing.


Paulann Petersen

Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, has seven full-length books of poetry, most recently One Small Sun, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she received the 2006 Holbrook Award from Oregon Literary Arts. In 2013 she was Willamette Writers’ Distinguished Northwest Writer. The Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds chose a poem from her book The Voluptuary as the lyric for a choral composition that’s now part of the repertoire of the Choir at Trinity College Cambridge. www.paulann.net

Gale Antokal

Gale Antokal (b. New York) received her BFA in 1980 and MFA from California College of the Arts in 1984. In 1992, Antokal received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University and has taught widely. Antokal is represented by Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco; Seager-Gray Gallery, Mill Valley, California; Tayloe Piggott Gallery, Jackson, Wyoming; and Amy Simon Fine Arts, Westport, Connecticut.

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