Acclaimed poet Molly Peacock tracks the vicissitudes of midlife marriage in her saucy, vulnerable, philosophical sixth collection.

Read and listen to excerpts from The Second Blush:

      Of Night

A city mouse darts from the paws of night.
A body drops from the jaws of night.
A woman denies the laws of night,
awake and trapped in the was of night.
A young man turns in the gauze of night,
unraveling the cause of night:
that days extend their claws at night
to re-enact old wars at night,
though dreams can heal old sores at night
and Spring begins its thaw at night,
while worry bones are gnawed at night.
He sips her through a straw at night.
Verbs whisper in the clause of night.
A finger to her lips
the pause of night.


 

       The Cliffs of Mistake

To know you’re making a mistake as
you make it, yet not be able to stop,
is to step off a cliff, expecting to scramble
backwards and up through the air to stand
on the outcrop you stepped from,
even though it can’t unhappen as you
backpeddle wildly with the second step,
looking far, far below onto the moraine
of pain you anticipate later, which is now
only the shock of recognizing the result
there’s no leaping back from.
Oh God, and this is only a metaphor.
Might this be what metaphors are for?
To say what it’s like
    before you hit what it is.


 

       Our Minor Art

We make love better unobserved — not that
we’d ever throw the new cats off the bed.
We let them sit there, turning their backs,
but listening anyway.  We don’t move in bed
quite with the freedom we might without them,
but the fact that they stay is like being
visited by minor gods.  And we love the minor.
It inspires us because we like being
close to its genius — something we might come
to understand beyond our human bounds
but near to our kind — not like the major,
a capitalized God, for instance, or
upper-case Art.  Those are beyond us,
yet our transformation here in bed is art,
something best made unobserved, even by the cats,
who leap off as we forget them and ourselves.

 


 

      Marriage

I watch my husband at a party,
a shy boy become a man at ease at last.
Success freshens his face, the boy now free
to pass beneath his expressions
as if slipping under a fence.
I used to slip under a fence
to swim in a stream-fed pond
and laze in the water till shocked
and delighted by a cold spot I swam through.
That’s what his face is like,
infused by a source inside him.
I know I have a part in it,
just as I was part of the pond
where I loved to swim.


 

      The Flaw

The best thing about a hand-made pattern
is the flaw.
Sooner or later in a hand-loomed rug,
among the squares and flattened triangles,
a little red nub might soar above a blue field,
or a purple cross might sneak in between
the neat ochre teeth of the border.
The flaw we live by, the wrong color floss,
now wreathes among the uniform strands
and, because it does not match,
makes a red bird fly,
turning blue field into sky.
It is almost, after long silence, a word
spoken aloud, a hand saying through the flaw,
I’m alive, discovered by your eye.