Cate Peebles


Before the sun, I sit
in bed and meditate
every morning since
it happened. The ending,
I’ll call it. The start of
tending bergamot candles
and a new species of iris
on a TV-tray alter to filigree
grief’s automatic practice,

which is simply called
breathing. Wailing begins
in the dark; my rescue
cat fills the empty rooms
with hunger that evolved,
I’ve heard, to match the same
frequency as a baby yowling
for milk. A vocal mother,

she paces the hallway calling
for her missing litter–-
she wants to tell them
there’s food, water,
shelter, but they're nowhere
near, somewhere now
across a river, kneading
blankets as instinct kicks
in; what they need to know

implanted in the twitch
fibers of every muscle.
She’d been nursing before
she moved in, so cleans her
soft belly just in case, tiger
stripes the color of granite
fawns on a rain-washed
tomb, gray and peach, her
whiskers tethered to the
underworld. In another
life, I put a girl to sleep
and she asks for one
more story, the one about
the lost cat that wandered
1,000 miles to find

its family. I say: I darted
across highways between
semitrucks and roadside
sofas; I outran hounds, hid
in rose bushes where purple
moles ducked from the rain
and I ate them to fuel my urge,
following a map engraved
in marrow. A train horn
drowns out the dawn

ringing from cathedral bells
down the block. There’s no
such thing as stopping a thought,
it follows the cat as she presses
her head into my palm and licks
my hand like it’s a just-born thing,
eyes still grown over, a rough
tongue instructing by feel, clearing
afterbirth from my matted fur.



Getting There

Into damp dusk—

driving from one
place to arrive some-

where else, it seems
I’m almost
there, wherever

I go; a leopard
print couch on

the roadside blurs
a streak of murky
orange & black

across an endless
ditch studded with

empty cans & raccoon
teeth & then, in
the last light, a vision

before my exit:
the tangled fuchsia

tentacles of a lace-
front weave wrap
around a snapping

turtle’s shell as it inches
across the highway towards

the verge into a grassy
field where a piano was
dropped by last week’s tornado

crushed & splintered, covered
in crows pecking keys. Believe

me, I pinch my flesh
& think of more pinched
flesh. Pietà. Queen

Anne’s lace & rain
musk. No radio, but songs.

A river collapses across the
hillside’s lap as it snakes
towards a mouth

beside towns,
their names painted

on bullet-riddled signs
at crossroads
surrounded by uneven

weeds insisting
through wallowing

asphalt. The syllables
of destination and
death wish in glowing font:


if I make it home
cradle my body

like a stone virgin
holding her son.
Believe me,

some nights
I fix to set

gold and green
as a god
sinking low

behind the trees



Cate Peebles is the author of the collection Thicket, (Lost Roads Press, 2018) and several chapbooks, including The Woodlands (Sixth Finch Books, 2016). Her manuscript, Revenge Bodies, won the 2023 Snowbound Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Her poems have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in The American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, DIAGRAM, Ploughshares, South Dakota Review, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She coedits the poetry magazine, Fou (, and can be found online at She is a museum archivist and currently lives in the Brandywine Valley on Lenape land.