The Stars Inside
Lee Peterson

The Stars Inside

     Spring 2021

There were those handful of months early on
when our daughter slept on our bedroom floor.
Her heart-covered sheets, twin mattress
along the wall. She needed to be near—we let her.
I'd lay awake in the dark and watch a green dot
glow. The smoke detector down the hall. False star.
There was that Mattress Factory show we saw,
years ago. A whole house draped in thread,
interior after interior enveloped. Black yarn encased
shelves, a kitchen stove, a wedding dress, a clock.
Wound from room to twine-covered room, everything
visible yet veiled. The ordinary markers of
the domestic present yet removed. How long
it must have taken the artist to wrap each floor,
how long to dismantle. Last week I took my daughter
and her friend to Pittsburgh. Their first expedition
since. Two hours west through rolling hills.
The girls thrilled at the littlest things—the taste
of coffee, a mullet-haired boy kissing a girl
at a convenience store, the tires' rotation, their whir.
The thirteen-year-olds listed all they missed
and wanted most—theaters, airplanes, friends—then
became self-conscious at what their desires exposed.
Lives of relative ease with those they loved, alive
and well. They forgot themselves as we sped
through Squirrel Hill Tunnel's eastern bore.
They filmed the arched roof overhead. The plenum
ceiling, roof tiles losing shape in motion, the lights'
geometric passing. They screeched, delighted
at the widening circle's approach, at the tunnel's
terminus. Until at last we emptied into the light.
Until, gleaming, a city appeared.

Lee Peterson

is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Rooms and Fields: Dramatic Monologues from the War in Bosnia (Kent State University Press) and In the Hall of North American Mammals (winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award), as well as a chapbook, The Needles Road (forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press). She teaches writing and works with international students at Penn State University's Altoona campus.