Peg Duthie – poems
1. The Language of Waiting
2. Schrödinger’s Top Hat
3. Playing Duets with Heisenberg’s Ghost (with audio)
….- Videopoem remix by Nic Sebastian
….- Videopoem remix by Othniel Smith
4. Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water
The Language of Waiting
Across the city of Prague, the evaporated words of saints
mingle with crumbs of ruined sandstone, forming
the slurry of an unvoiced alphabet, one residing
not in the tour guides’ storybook spiels
but underneath drum riffs on a steering wheel,
an executive singing along to U2.
In a studio in Nashville, a sound engineer
sips her second cup of coffee while the guys on guitars
argue over what’s missing from the song they just recorded.
So many people don’t realize what they want until
they hear for themselves who they aren’t,
and oh, she’s seen how hard they try
to leapfrog over the distance between
what they yearn to say and what can hold true
and while she has the command of marvelous tools
with which she can make six people sound
like a chorus of twenty seraphim, and a live horn sway
to a dead man’s shufflebeats, she cannot conjure
rabbits out of ten-gallon sow’s ears.
But now and then she also encounters
psalms of hoarse grace, their cadences gray
with the grit of Time’s soot. Within the right light,
she’s witnessed how gray can shine
as a weary, honest silver. She lives for this:
she won’t hear it today, but two days from now,
she’ll forward a track to a friend in Prague
with the subject line “I think you’ll like this”
and on the third playthrough (stuck on Ječná
ten minutes and counting), the executive will begin
to improvise a descant, folding Slavic consonants
into the haze of Tennessee vowels.
- From Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012); first published in Dead Mule
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Schrödinger’s Top Hat
Either there’s a rabbit, or there’s not,
but if you wait, a rabbit may appear
but even if you wait, it well may not.
Some might say that magic’s merely rot—
a cheerful shake of superstition’s snare.
Sometimes there’s a rabbit, sometimes not,
but even if you skip the wheel and slot,
the sidewalks show more cracks from year to year.
Will your mother blame you? Maybe, maybe not.
It’s hard to read the future when you’re taught
you shouldn’t race ahead of where you are,
whether rabbits wait for you or not.
And even if the scarves stay bright and taut,
will the coins fall freely from each ear?
Even if we wait, they well may not,
but even when the body’s lost the plot,
joy can leap from nowhere like a hare:
either there’s a rabbit, or there’s not,
no matter if you wait for it or not.
- From Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012); first published in STAR*LINE
back to top
Playing Duets with Heisenberg’s Ghost
(Read by Nic Sebastian)
There’s something about practicing Mozart
that invites both matter and anti-matter
to be present. Heisenberg seats himself
to my left with a gravity that’s somehow not
out of place with the lightweight hops and skips
of the allegretto our hands have begun
to collaborate into being. Its notes strike the air,
each sound a surge of energy sent
from finger to key to hammer to string
to caress the ear of someone who might happen
to be listening. And yet from such uncertainty
so many hear a proof of life beyond death,
and I don’t believe in ghosts, but I keep playing.
Video remix by Othniel Smith:
back to top
Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water
Three gates ago, my locket contained
a shred of a letter, a match, and your name
etched across the curve of a bone.
Two gates ago, I set fire to the shred.
Then a stile I stumbled into
Bone became nail.
The locket, a pail.
Your name is a veil I wear under my skin.
- First published in inkscrawl
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Getting things right
is exhausting work
so we almost didn’t steer
our feet toward Brickell
but how very good
it turned out to be:
you speaking Spanish,
me studying the skyline,
both sipping Malbecs
and savoring the squid,
to match our separate tastes.
Behind me, a woman
grilled her brother
about his friends.
Behind you, a man
raised his glass high
and his voice to concert pitch,
toasting films, fashion,
fungi, and frenemies.
All around us
such different people
trying so hard
to get things right,
the flow of red wine
both prayer and reward.
- First published by Alimentum
In addition to writing poems and stories, Peg Duthie has read them aloud for qarrtsiluni, Goblin Fruit, and other projects, as well as rendering a variety of pieces in calligraphy. She has logged in 500+ hours as a volunteer for the Nashville Talking Library, works as a copyeditor and indexer, and blogs at Zirconium.