Paulann Petersen

Nocturne | Late Winter Rainbow
Residence | Entreaty | Interchange


Asleep, I become a black river. 
Flowers of darkness
cast their seed onto my banks,

while those earthly margins holding me 
grow sotted from the touch
of my indigo tongue.

Take me into you, pinprick seed. 
Let me swell your membranes, 
soften your husks

until succulence breaks, blusters itself 
toward bloom. An onrush,
I will soon become

the deep castoff
you loose into the air, that hypnosis 
the world calls perfume.

Late Winter Rainbow

Unearthly visitor come close,
you are wide enough to light up 
half the bleak day. You touch down 
so near, I could fling open
the doors of this building and run 
out into your seven bands
of glowing mist.

O half-hoop of luminous hues, 
heaven has fallen

You are this sky’s love letter— 
spread open for all
our world to see.


Near their limb-brush
    their scruff and litter
    their warping bark
under their shade
    their aphid-drip
    their crow-hostel

close to the squirrel-sway 
    resin liquor
    chartreuse light
not far from their wind-moan 
at the edge of their rain-routing:

I live in the green
    shrine of trees.


Stones making this river’s bed, I’m calling to you.
Stones rolling in water’s rush, do you hear me?
The river carries its clamorous roil around and above you, 
lighting up every hue and gleam of your skin.
Stones shifting under current’s weight,
who among you is my own?

I’ve come to find out, to talk with the one of you
who is my kin. No, not true. Not entirely. 
Ancestor-stone, you who have much to tell me, 
I’m here to listen to what you say.

Give me the stories of our family fixations,
our immigrations—long journeys made on the back 
of inching ice, wide diasporas accomplished
by the thaw of loose-limbed soil.

A child of gravel and riprap, daughter of your mineral tribe, 
I’m headed back into the grit of my beginnings—
my bones ready to dissolve into rubble-dust.

Before I go, say it out loud. Tell me 
my own stone name.


The cedar breathes me in, exhales
a greener me. I pass through a crow’s lungs, 
the better for my journey.

Even the hummingbird—this one a plainer female— 
trades with me a bit of the air making up
what we each, for a moment or two,
label as self.

The sky will soon take a breath 
so big that nothing of me

will be given back.


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. Her website:

Copyright © Mudlark 2022
Mudlark Posters | Home Page