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Peter Campion

Peter Campion

Peter Campion is the author of two books of poems, Other People (2005) and The Lions (2009), both from the University of Chicago Press. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Larry Levis Reading Prize, the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches in the M.F.A. program at the University of Minnesota.


Beyond my father's distance and beyond his father's.
Back a century. My great grandfather's desk
in Cincinnati. How he must have cherished
its distance from the power looms below
and must have known: the fierce
precision of his nib on the accounts
pinning him down while sun
spilled orange across the river
kept him from falling
back there
                  and kept his wife
if this year she was
                                home from the sanatorium
afloat in her complete
edition of Browning
                                   (which I own)
and kept his children
bound to the education that would carry them
thank God away from there.

The desk. It must have been
a rolltop. Maple with locking drawers and blotter.
Ribbon of accounting tape. Ledgers in which
the loops and slashes must have borne
even through Palmer Method regularity
his own peculiar
                            animal impress.

But across such distance
                                         so much "must have been."

This morning
                        wrestling my son
I kiss his chest then
trumpet a tickling fart noise
until he wriggles free
                                    and shouts "again."

O what aristocratic privilege
to squirm in bed like this.
What sweet barbaric closeness of our skin.

What solace and uneasiness
to know: however long from now
however distant in the loom of
office towers
                       underwater green at night
and running lights on cargo planes and
glimmer from the squatter shacks
under an overpass

           memory of nerves
tensed then released to
                                      warmth in his ribcage
will flow from this.

And then what solace and uneasiness

not to know

and only to press my face to him again.


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