Published on Academy of American Poets (

With a Petroleum Coating

The exoskeleton dries by the radiator. What is the usefulness of shells, as in putting them up to one’s ear to detect the poem? Isn’t it infringeable that we carry our mating rituals into teleology? Isn’t it lately that our mates don’t often insert parts? The problem, as if splashed onto canvas in a never-drying medium, isn’t it that we can be hurt from without as if by wifi, by rumor? By cell tower? By stork? Thanks for caring. The storks along the beach stand on one leg, and then slowly generously fly away, including me, like a teacher who warns against trying to make absent things present. What do all these little knobs on the console do? This one flies us straight into battle with a petroleum coating. This one parodies the last erotic feeling. This one entices us to have babies with the reader, sitting lax on a conveyor belt that suddenly falls off at the end into someplace decent. In your guest room, draped with necklaces, we feel thinner than a Mobius strip, real wolf fur rug inside and out, real antler chandelier. In your guest room we peel an alien tangerine.


Copyright © 2020 by Trace Peterson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This piece comes out of a series of prose poems I am still writing in which I do unusual things with pronouns and juxtapositions. I want everything in these poems to be both inhabitable/consequential and wildly hypothetical/speculative, informed by life experience but not limited to it, and always both in a pervasively politically aware way. I don't know at this point that I could be any more specific about what it all means without violating my own relationship to writing still in progress.”
Trace Peterson


Trace Peterson

Trace Peterson is a poet and literary scholar. Her first book of poems, Since I Moved In, was reissued by Chax Press in a revised edition in 2019 with an Introduction by Joy Ladin. Peterson is the founding editor and publisher of EOAGH, a small press and literary journal which has won a National Jewish Book Award and two Lambda Literary Awards, including the first Lammy given in transgender poetry. She is co-editor of the anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2013), and of Arrive on Wave: Collected Poems of Gil Ott (Chax Press, 2016). She has taught at Yale University, Hunter College, the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa, and The Poetry Project, among other places. Previously the N.E.H. Post-Doctoral Fellow in Poetics at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, Peterson is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at UCONN, Storrs.

Date Published: 2020-01-27

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