Catherine Pierce

Let someone say you are electric

and you become electric, an eel
in the best possible way, flicking light
and sharp static wherever you toss
your tail. The whole room spins
to a stop to watch you laugh
with an amaretto sour in hand.
Your teeth so even, or so
charmingly not. Why not try
Gaelic, or string theory, why not
karaoke Bohemian Rhapsody?
Even your failures are arresting.
Let someone say you are electric
and the world, too, becomes electric,
every streetlamp humming not
with a harbinger of burnout
but with its own scarcely-contained
thrill, its desire for every person
moving through its yellow orb,
in particular you. Of course you.
You once-with-the-train-trestle.
You once-with-the-wolfhound.
You of the fascinating wrists
and boots, my god, the boots!
The hawks overhead—what balletic
wheeling. Your orange juice
a complex equation in your mouth.
Does it matter if the words never
lead to a large, soft bed?
Does it matter if the words
were said a decade ago
by someone whose middle name
you’ve forgotten? Does it matter
if you know the speaker, or ever did?
The words are what matters,
little diamonds in your hand. Here:
you are electric. Put that diamond
next to the others. Make a trail
of gleaming and follow it to yourself.


Exhausted with a Three-Week-Old, I Make a Quilt of My Near-Hallucinations

A bee bumping softly against the closed window
I stitch to a memory of racetrack cheers
and loudspeaker crackles, which I stitch to that time
I ate tiramisu on the Grand Canal while a Neil Young
song buzzed incongruously through tinny speakers
and I’m not sure that tiramisu was any better
than the tiramisu I had in Northumberland,
Pennsylvania but I was in Venice after all, and anyway,
I’ve lost the thread again. Which is all I do these days.
This morning I put the dishwasher detergent
in the refrigerator and then, telling my husband,
forgot the word refrigerator. The baby looks up,
crosses his gray-blue eyes, turtles his small head
forward. He is the most beautiful alien.
This house is silent for sleeping but no one sleeps.
So I stitch together the wind rustling the tall oaks
with the bells on the old wooden fire truck ride,
the one I rode, the one my sons will ride. I stitch
the ticking of April rain to midway dings
and buzzes, the piped-in nickelodeon.
I stitch the cat’s mouth opening in a quiet click
to the clamor of Mardi Gras eve. I stitch
the dishwasher’s low complaint right to that
Bourbon Street strip club pulse.
Here, in the hinterlands of sleeplessness,
every step feels like a moonwalk. Every time
I move one finger, another finger twitches.
So I stitch and stitch and cover myself
with my quilt and though it might look like I’m drifting
to sleep, I never am, because the baby
is awake again and his gray-blue eyes
are starting to focus on lamps and windows
and because every time I say hush, hush
I am really saying world, come back, get loud.


Snow Day

Your head is full of small, sharp-toothed
beasts that lunge without provocation

but in snow they quiet, they creep.
In snow you hear bells and chimes all day,

faintly. In snow you remember the top-hatted
man who visited your school and turned a dove

to silver coins and how once you knew magic
as fact, not as something to raise spikes against.

In snow even dove cries are hushed,
and squirrels skitter over ice with the sound

of delicate wreckage. The light comes from
nowhere and is brilliant with its own surety.

It isn’t that your fears have disappeared.
You watch them burrow into a pocket of snow,

where they will hide until the melting.
They are afraid and frozen in the face of this

much glistening. You know they’ll claw
to the surface again. But for now they are buried,

timid, and you walk over them through this
white field that asks no questions. You walk

and walk, and the trees in their glass gowns
sing and break softly overhead.


Catherine Pierce is the author of The Tornado Is the World (forthcoming in December), The Girls of Peculiar, and Famous Last Words (all from Saturnalia Books). Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry (2015 and 2011), Boston Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, and elsewhere. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.