my soul among all souls
lives in a silver vein
coursing the chthonic world

lives in that ore containing both living and dead
amid their mercurial being

my soul runs its thread of silver
with the huge cedar-neighbor’s shining thread
alongside that of the great-horned owl
the wing-flash flicker

mine, a wisp of gleam
within the precious metal-light
of Rilke, of Gandhi, of Sappho
of my Whitman father, my Whitman mother

what surrounds our vein of souls
is solid, is the sky
the mountain tarn
a lily-meadow endless in its petal-thick perfume

one vein, one pathway we all take
through the underside of a world
                                  unfolding even now
                       unfurling ever

this world that uncoiled its worldliness
long before I was,
                                before birth itself
                                             could be born

Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, has seven full-length books of poetry, most recently One Small Sun, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she received the 2006 Holbrook Award from Oregon Literary Arts. In 2013 she was Willamette Writers’ Distinguished Northwest Writer.