Peter Pereira


A Pot of Red Lentils

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

Her Name is Rose

With a boil the size of an egg
protruding from her right hip,
she knows what I must do,
and to stall me has locked herself
inside the bathroom, bargaining
for a way out.

But it’ s too late: I’ ve seen
the oozing wounds stopped up with bits
of toilet paper and tape, the scarified
pockets that crater the surface
of her arms, buttocks, thighs.

A mean fix torched her last vein
years ago, and she’ s been banging the dope
ever since, puncturing her body
like a juju doll. She wants to kick,
but not now.

Holy Shit

It used to be more private — just the
immediate family gathered after mass,
the baptismal font at the rear
of the church tiny as a bird bath.
The priest would ladle a few teaspoons’
tepid holy water on the bundled baby’ s
forehead, make a crack about the halo
being too tight as the new soul wailed.
We’ d go home to pancakes and eggs.

What’s Written on the Body

He will not light long enough
for the interpreter to gather
the tatters of his speech.
But the longer we listen
the calmer he becomes.
He shows me the place where his daughter
has rubbed with a coin, violaceous streaks
raising a skeletal pattern on his chest.
He thinks he’ s been hit by the wind.
He’ s worried it will become pneumonia.
In Cambodia, he’ d be given
a special tea, a prescriptive sacrifice,
the right chants to say. But I
know nothing of Chi, of Karma,