Peter Sears Peter Sears

Peter Sears is the author of four books of poems, Tour: New & Selected Poems; The Brink; Green Diver; and most recently, Small Talk. He received his M.F.A. from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and is the 1999 winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest. His poems appear on with the author's permission.


I love snow, long gone now from the valley,
but still patching and striping the Cascade
mountains and, beyond the front range, the
white triangle of Three-Fingered Jack shining.
Makes me want to try out for luge. They hold
tryouts around the country – who knows,
there might be a senior circuit. I love the high
banking in the turns as if the luge is going to
shoot off the track. Perfect for me: push off
and pray. The motion at the start when you grip
the handles and swing back and forth in place,
that I can already do. I do it on the floor with
my cat, watching a ball game. I can learn how
to lie back down once I push off. I’m not sure
whether you steer with your hands or with
your feet. How do you hold on, though, through
the tunnel racket and see where you’re going?
If you look up, you lose speed. If you don’t
look up, you could go over a bank into a tree.
Then again, if you must go, it’s not bad, as
long as you go all the way out. Otherwise,
you’re farmed out to a faux old country-club;
you are the third guy in the second row of
rockers on the front porch, rocking gently
—there are speed limits—but you are no
trouble maker, you take your meds smiling
off the tray in your own plastic cup, and you
don’t swear or do those mating calls any more.
Your baseball cap, you pull it own because
your face has become a little pocky from too
much sun as a kid. It looks like you walked in
the wrong door of a tavern dart contest.

Dear Giant Squid

This is a fan letter. I don’t care what the Japanese scientists say,
I saw them on TV getting all excited about how they have photos
of you and almost caught you by dropping juicy bait down to
the creepy depths where you live, along with a fancy camera.
Next time, eat the camera. Their footage shows you approaching
the bait and taking it and getting caught, then dragging the line
up and down, around and around. When you finally ripped yourself
free, you lost a tentacle, which they dangled on a post as if
they had been down there fighting you with their bare hands.
What a joke! You would have wrapped them – right? – and popped
their eyeballs out. So now you know they won’t quit until they
get you. They will scrounge more money and more cameras
and more bait and more boats because that is the way
humans are, most all of them some of the time and some of
them all of the time. So you had better head down, way down,
and don’t wise off and try to take on some whale. A drawing
in a book when I was a kid showed a whale as black as the black
sea it dove down through, with its jaws open over most
of the tentacles of a giant squid, just like you, and the whale’s
eye right up next to the giant squid’s eye. Made me sick,
I turned the page, then turned back, I couldn’t help it,
those jaws closing on so many tentacles, about to chop them
like so much spaghetti. That’s how we humans are, bloodthirsty,
even when we are young and small and not so mean yet.
There is a lot about us not to like. The scientists won’t rest
until they lift you breathless out of the water and lower you
into a cage, take lots of measurements, speak in low, earnest
voices to the eager public, and shake hands all around.

Dream of Following
with a nod to David Romtvedt

I am following my father and mother,
following them although I don’t much like
the idea, and I don’t much like

that the distance to them grows smaller,
so small I’m catching up to them. You’d think
we’d have much to say to one another.

We don’t. My father motions me
to look back over my shoulder.
There’s my daughter following me.

That’s mean of him. I want to hail her,
tell her to slow down.
But I don’t. I turn back, they’re gone.

Long After I am Gone

Some day my daughter will make a left turn,
long after I am gone, and think of me,
not because she sees something in particular;

no, and not because of an odd overlap like
a rowboat crossing the path of lake moonlight,
but because I just rise in her memory like toast;

yes, she and I in a laundromat, feeding tumbles
of quarters into the dryers’ silver mouths
to make all five dryers spin long enough

to get ornery blue jeans dry as crackers.
“Do you see yourself there in the laundromat?”
“Yes, dad, I’m running from dryer to dryer,

sticking in quarters kerplunk kerplunk,
but I guess I’ll go back to putting stickers
on my school notebook because this is taking

a lot longer, dad, than you said it would.”
This recalling what you said helps me now
against each day falling faster and faster away.