Poetry by Mark Petterson

Ways of Survival; Forgiveness

Poems by Mark Petterson


Ways of Survival

learn the names of tree diseases

hold your hunting dog at the end of life

don’t ask don’t get attached

I had a friend once; wrecked his coupe; brain-damaged; moved back in

list all the possible anatomies of extreme aloneness

close your eyes when you start to see white

talk with your eyes, fingertips and hips

grow out your beard. cut it. keep it in your glove compartment

dry your eyes because the stone is rolled away 

relax and look at maps of the world



Be slow.
Read widely, without intent.
Give yourself no egress.

Be gentle,
touch without seeing.
Ask before you answer.

Be not afraid
of mourning, sadness, and even anger.
These are all real.
But do not be afraid.

The world is not about to cease -
it is not a sentence we can refuse to finish. 
The stubborn showing of life beneath oppression
will neither cease nor flourish.

 Wonder whether we all lose in the end.
And if it is possible to lose with love,
while still imagining
that this is not a game.

Not a fight, this invented splendor,
not an exercise for the clever.
Beyond anxiety, minutiae,
tedium, this is, after all, a lot of fun.

And though you wouldn’t
have volunteered for it, 
you will be right there,
right beside the rest of us. 

Thoughts for discussion by the author

Think through the above poem with us, and, if moved, share your thoughts with us and other readers in the comments below.

Most of us intuitively know that human existence is fraught with dichotomies, irreconcilables, and hopelessly entangled contradictions. Our own emotional lives bear the brunt of this, and we look for a way out - we re-create the world in an “either/or” form, and feel better that, at least, we chose the road less traveled. 

These poems are small attempt to try to undo that method of understanding things, complexes, objects, and people. Is it possible that most of the decisions that cause agony are really just failures of imagination? That we don’t have to choose between “A” & “B”? That “AB” or even “C” are possible, and we just hadn’t thought of it yet. There are different ways of looking at things, other ways of seeing. Certainly these poems don’t do justice to that idea, but we can collectively and individually (if such a thing as an “individual” exists) stop for a moment and imagine if there is a “both/and” to be discovered, or even another, unfound, technicolor world that we hadn’t even considered yet.