What to Do? By Radiance Angelina Petro

What to Do?
Radiance Angelina Petro


Trees sleep more and more these days,
they do more dawdling, and have trouble
catching their second wind.

Take the willow for instance,
mostly what they do nowadays is plan random
thoughts. They end up only writing their initials
instead of the stories they usually write,
and when a little boy turns into a hare
and bounds away, they hardly take notice,
when they sweep the ground they look
less and less like crones sweeping their cottages
and more like lost, tethered ghosts.

Another example is the pine.
Fewer and fewer of their cones follow
the Fibonacci spiral, and look less and less
like friars praying in a monastery, and more
like wooden teeth that fall out at the slightest breeze.

Now, I don’t have answers to any of this,
especially the stuff about the willows,
I’m just worried—autumn is approaching,
and when it gets here—what then?
What if their leaves are less vivid and bright,
and can’t hold on to their branches for very long?
And I can’t even help find solutions–I’m too busy
grooming my long, velvety ears and being skittish
at everything that moves.





It’s OK, by Radiance Angelina Petro

It’s OK
Radiance Angelina Petro


It would be a mistake
to unlock all the riddles.
When the angel visits
it’s perfectly reasonable
to be afraid. It’s OK–
you’re allowed to have
someone accompany you
on your own, personal labyrinth.
One day you will open
your bedroom door
and there will be an oak tree
in the middle of a garden,
and flowers will grow
from your every, open wound.




Little Things, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Little Things
Radiance Angelina Petro



Darkness at the center
of the lotus, seeds planning
for the future, the ant’s path
straight from and back
to the nest, the movements
of the beaver’s mind,
the star-nosed mole’s nose
with twenty two rays, the squirrel
and it’s little projects for autumn,
the turkey buzzards opening
their wings to take in the morning sun.





Today I Have the Gumption, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Today I Have the Gumption
Radiance Angelina Petro



I’ve never stood naked beneath the moon,
or touched a molting bison, however,
my poetry, like all hearts, beats memento mori
with every line. I have experienced
suddenly moments, and a witch once scratched
me with her nail.

That last one may or may not be true,
I’m having trouble remembering, but there is
a scar on my left arm and I don’t know how
it got there, and it itches sometimes, and I’m
pretty sure it’s from a witch who sits on a chair
in my dreams, but again, my memories
are all flux and flow.

I like the rumps of deer—their white tails
flickering as the leap away from the side of the road,
I like my raven colored hair streaked with the color
of old bones. And sometimes, when I sleep, in the stilling
and folding in, I feel the moon stuck in my body,
and she’s naked, as always, and sometimes
she circles widdershins through my ribs just for fun.

Morning doesn’t rush, cows spread dew with every step,
and belladonna is one of my favorite words, so
I keep some in a tincture on my windowsill.

A bee that bumps into a bell just hard enough
to make it ring—that’s me in a nutshell–
a thirsty, broken, wine cask, a mingling among
snails and moss, a little crack in a fence, although,
sometimes, when the night is at its most silent,
I feel like I am a goddess of ghosts.

Today I have the gumption to dance without music,
and my eyes are open like the owl’s at sun set.
I am going to lift my head, that can barely support
these horns, and shape shift into my own life,
because, you see, a wolf is coming towards me
with a bandaged paw, and I know what I must do.






This Morning I Did Zazen on the Toilet, by Radiance Angelina Petro

This Morning I Did Zazen on the Toilet
Radiance Angelina Petro



This morning I did zazen on the toilet.
As I shaved I thought: “I’d love to be a whore.”
Instead, I’ve been startled by a falling leaf,
and the lines on my palms extend out beyond my hands
making it difficult to whore.

Someone is riding an ox backwards into the temple,
a hermit sits on my roof, grinning, holding a sign
that says: “Too many vacancies.”

On my way to the station there’s a butterfly serving tea at a cafe,
there’s a cap-sized boat floating in the middle of the lake,
everyone in the park is playing fetch with each other.

I crunch a rice cake on the train. Looking out the window
I see a child turn into a tree, a nun leaps and turns into
a bat and flies into the loft of a barn, the apple pickers
turn into bears, a coyote picks up a stick and pretends it’s a flute.

Later that night, a little girl pulls down the moon
with her teeth, a black octopus roils across the hills,
there’s a fish swimming in the hair of the lady sitting in front of me.

Just before sleep, I turn the band of my watch one notch
tighter, I try to cling to the soft breathing of the other passengers,
but can’t. A man walks down the aisle towards me with the head of a wolf.

Tomorrow I’m going to praise ferocity, and when I get off
this train, I’m going to run with the berserkers, and join the frenzy
of it all, and howl backwards into my life.





Elements, by Radiance Angelina Petro

Radiance Angelina Petro


This is the world of the wind.
Everything touching everything,
believing is wishful, shimmer
out and easy into the air,
dress everyday as if going
to a dance in flowing, loose clothes,
steps light and ready, feather dust
the living room like the gentlest
of tornadoes, arms clouds, flex the knees,
ease into turns, confetti tossed in the parade.
This is the world of the wind.

This is the world of fire.
Consuming all being consumed by all,
a living furnace, dancing hearth,
embers wiggling, rising, drunken fireflies
flying upwards, stars burning ancient
light, sinuous and leaping, scandalize
life with a smile. This is the world of fire.

This is the world of water.
Easily disturbed and the better for it,
adjusts easily to curves and forms
from oceans to tears, from tears to sweat,
rain and snow dance down and down,
wander around a lake, hands in pockets,
head slightly down, ripples draw near
encouraging steps, little drips
make great changes, freeze, then thaw
into mist disappearing, as estuaries wash roots
drawing honesty and lies up and through
the body. This is the world of water.

This is the world of the ground.
Shared and there when learning to crawl,
there for when jumping up and down
is called for, there for first walking the steps
of a new dance, there for when limbs unfold
into graceful, memorized movements,
the most consistent thing known to all the ground
there to follow the lead of the journey,
there for the steps of pall bearers,
there for the lowering into graves.
This is the world of the ground.







The Hope I Carried With Me to Bed, by Radiance Angelina Petro

The Hope I Carried With Me to Bed
Radiance Angelina Petro



Late evening sky—the color of Kali.
Mind swirling with anti-mantras.
I gave the morning a five-star review–
even added a couple comments of praise.

And then the day happened.

So many missing pieces, and not just
the centermost. A whole row of edges—gone.

But I am familiar with this emptiness,
and once again I walked the pilgrim’s walk
hoping to find rest by a stream of faith.

I felt swindled.

Heart pitted against mind, body against
spirit, time against soul, good against
bad, me against me.

Called in reinforcements of intuition
and managed to see a caterpillar
feeding on hibiscus leaves,
and the cafe had well-salted soup,
washed the lettuce and there weren’t
any snails, although I like snails
and bring them outside whenever
I find one.

What is the solution to this inevitable
nihilism that follows me even in secret?

All I know is by nightfall Kali unfolded
her red tongue and revealed the moon,
and she was hungry. And that’s the hope
I carried with me to bed that night, and I fell asleep
to the sound of her terrible steps moving
across the land—her ankle bracelets
jangling, like a thousand cracked bells, as she searched
for something to crush.





The Last Question, by Radiance Angelina Petro

The Last Question
Radiance Angelina Petro



Once I met a ghost full of questions. We walked for hours, losing track of time. I answered their questions as best I could, but they didn’t seem interested in my answers, which were mostly guesses anyway. They just kept asking question after question. I tried asking them one every now and then, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Here are the questions they asked. I wrote them down for you. I remember all of them except one. The last one.

Have you ever flipped a knife to see if it would land
with the blade stuck in the grass?
Have you ever found an old well and looked down
only to find it filled with dirt?
Do you believe you’ve done anything
meritorious? That’s a word I learned when I got here.
What do you think the first question in the world was?
Someone here says they know but they won’t tell me.
Everything’s instantaneous isn’t it?
Have you ever pulled a sword from a scabbard
and yelled: “Charge!”?
I carried a secret goodness to the other side.
I still have it in my pocket. Can you guess what it is?
I met a guy here named Buddha. He asked me a question.
Want to know what it was?
If you ever came across a rope dangling all the way from heaven
what would you do? I found one once and gave it a tug
and ended up pulling the whole rope down.
I didn’t know what to do after that so I looked around for a second
and then kept walking, pretending nothing happened, although
I had the feeling I should be running, and I’m pretty sure
I heard a crow telling me to.
Are my questions bugging you?
There’s lots of gods here dressed in feathers. Why do you think that is?
How old do you think I am?
Want to know how I died?
Have you ever seen someone walk into the woods and suddenly
stoop down on all fours, grow hooves and paws or something,
and just keep going? I see that all the time now.
Are you sure my questions aren’t bothering you?
Anyway, I only have one more and then I have to go.
Want to guess what my last question is? It’s the question we all have to answer
before we get here.

And that’s the question I don’t remember. I think it was something about who do I believe myself to be, but I’m not sure. Do you have any idea what their last question could have been? Why do you think it needs to get answered before I die? Do you think that means I’m going to die soon? What if I die soon? What if I die soon and haven’t answered the question? Will you hold my hand and wait with me while I’m trying to remember the last question?