Kathleen Peirce teaches in the MFA Program at Texas State University. Her four books of poetry are Mercy, Divided Touch / Divided Color, The Oval Hour, and The Ardors. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Guggenheim Foundation. Among her awards are The Iowa Prize, The AWP Award for Poetry, and The William Carlos Williams Award.

Three poems by Kathleen Peirce

Anima Forma Corporis


In a November of false weather, overwarm,

green shoots showed

and she could not see them,

wrapped as she was,

indoors, in a cranberry sweater, tan slacks,

eighty-eight years, though these fall loose

in recognition now, and away

in increments even the closest view would

not catch, not make clear.

As with the out-movement of a leaf

one would like to have seen happening, one would;

too late. The body has arrived.

Confession 3.10.18

Of the times I felt myself an ornament
of the world, it was always with the clarity
of my body moving over a larger body,
brought to move as a bracelet rolls upward on the arm
when the hand, without consciousness,
is lifted to the eye or mouth, or as a bracelet falls
to its limit when the arm swings down,
the wearer made aware, pleased by having been so
added to. But if the world had been aware of me,
and had been given pleasure by my moving over it,
I would have known, the way a lover knows the other's arm
as an adornment greater than the silver at its wrist,
and the rock that generates a stone daylight can pass through
would have been obvious to me, and the memory of flowers
exhaled by the interior of the fig would have been as the aperture
a child's body, a man's body could pass through,
and I would have asked for equal mercy
for myself and fragrances.

[from The Oval Hour (University Of Iowa Press, 1999)]


Nine pearls rolled in the hand
sound like no other thing. One less
and the change was indiscernible,
except the one removed was what
we thought about. We could sense
the coming exhalation when one breath
crossed into another body in a kiss, even
in a dream. What left us, we magnified
to keep ourselves aware things could, and had been
changed, though we appeared ungrateful for
our eight pearls. We expected who could see us
would perceive. Which is how we could bear
the junipers shagged with ice,
and the lark. Some singing cracked the air apart;
we hoped the single pearl belonged to sea again.

[from The Ardors (Ausable Press, 2005)]