Jennifer Perrine

Pastoral for Our Uncharted Territories

When we came to this place, I whispered, Here

be dragons,

    but saw in the field only

dragonflies, ancient flitting creatures plucked

from some absinthe dream.

      We walked out, barefoot,

and I could feel the green

    beneath, my skin

stippled by those slender blades, and later,

my knees dyed, stained.

  This is the home we make,

cherries left for birds to suck, small apples

we pocket or let drop and rot.

  Far off,

houses fill the whole horizon, windows

dark, but here I watch

 our sleek black dog glide

over the garden fence, the rabbits flushed

from their burrows, darting across the grass.

This is the spot where you taught me

  birds’ names—

starlings roosting in the hedges, common

grackle whose title belies

   its feathers,

iridescent, its song a creaky hinge.

In winter I note their cupped nests,


just below where the sun crests, crimson haze

spooled out behind; across the way,


baseball diamonds, the flagpole stripped, rattling

its rope in the wind.

In that cold sometimes

I forget this grin, this you, tanned, sweat-slick,

tilling earth and clearing weeds.

  I forget

to marvel at our cellar doors, rust-red

handles always raised, as if tugged by ghosts

seeking shelter;

  I welcome them, remind

myself we’re never alone, remember

when we arrived you said,

     nothing stays owned.


Jennifer Perrine is the author of The Body Is No Machine (New Issues), winner of the 2008 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry, and In the Human Zoo (University of Utah Press), recipient of the 2010 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize.In 2014, she will serve as a member of the U.S. Arts and Culture Delegation to Cuba. Perrine teaches in the English department and directs the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Drake University.