Juliet Patterson’s first book, The Truant Lover, was selected by Jean Valentine as the 2004 winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and was a 2007 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Bellingham Review, Bloom, Conduit, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Orleans Review, The Journal, Verse and other magazines. She is the recipient of a SASE/Jerome fellowship in poetry, a 2004 fellowship with the Institute for Community and Cultural Development through Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, and an arts fellowship from the Minnesota State Arts Board. She teaches poetry and creative writing in Minneapolis through the College of St. Catherine, Hamline University, and The Loft Literary Center.

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Three poems by Juliet Patterson

Half December

Winter’s lured buds blast the ice
& junipers pick at embroidery
in mittens, filching snow.

The hand-saw singing not to think
of any misery, pine-

blossom disguising the branches
picking buttons of the dead.

To leave with a tree under your arm
is hazardous

if falling out of sentences the dead make
of your bones.

To leave with a tree is easy if I

curves, steering the wish-bone clump
of needles.

This dream the world is having about itself
includes light driving

in our little car, to wave & listen, very bright across

Will eat the cloud.
Will bind this note, quarrying its margin

toward whatever is there.

Later, more snow pocked with personification
points to the fields, yield

us less a flock browsing the tree

then, sweetheart of whiter walls; your arms
dumb, pluralled.

[from The Truant Lover, Nightboat Books]


to watch
a great deal of elsewhere

inhabiting the shore

mute, but implicative
as flowers

struggling at our feet


trapping a forgotten


How something dies out
in us: the conversation, the hour

made out of nothing
but relationships

of again

as faint as the place where one

its hope, I thought
the sea


O, beautiful
whale, say, calving

the one to draw
as we drown

filing the water’s tongue

you know: the leap
goes over you, always

‘not stillness,’ said, but the movement
traced, scattered

‘black verse
the turn and the turn’


What’s below

the wave-belly


fingering walls

in speech we wish to join

out of context



Purblind wall-space, white
white, tree-studded
hand tract in the windowed
air. Ray of light points, the dark marsh
shows its way through
the ragged wood.
The half-opened door,
you, with all your otherness.
Here, half sounds
of shade, the tumbled sheen
of home. Your fingers
bruising my wrist, a wave,
a word, adrift


Said, disappearing these
fingers will them-
selves of you into night.
Had through marsh fog
sculled down with the wind-shuttled
buds as against our erudition
of which flowers our nature
to vanish. In a small house
deeply the wooing that penetrated
to the sea returns to a breath-papered room
in green arms
and empty


Eternities dead, and gone,
figured the wide-open stretch of bay
flickered out against a life
given up to water.
Hand against a flight
of color, without a place
to rest in worked circles
of sound. Sand patterns
naked under death leaves,
a gull sick with sun, pulled up on shore
by the whitest rationing,
the one we kept burying
and re-burying


Future writ in white
spaces, wouldn’t stop
the shelled meadow
holding morning’s swell;
all its rolling loam, slow fracture
that if paraphrased
would set a pure interval
between us like a word
offered silently
and then returned
in order to disturb things
otherwise clear.
As against the water’s
edging, thrashed
leaves, our knees tucked


The wave-line on shell, sand, wall
pulled fingers and hair meshed
through pine. Limbs, limbs
the water’s body shot,
into its dark vowel,
quavering. The wave,
through strung gutturals,
that uttered, ‘Not stillness,’
said. In us, impulse testing
the unknown. What quickens:
clarity, the outline of a leaf and dull
window our mouths move
under. Through the glass
pane, how fast, the white voracity
of gulls, disappearing in cracks
of the road

[from Pebble Lake Review, Summer 2007]