Peter Engen

am I enough

to carry our monsters from 

the pillow to the burn pile where


there’s a stump by the red barn that 

was used to butcher chickens but 

we don’t do that anymore because you 

started cutting yourself below the knee with 

a thin blade from a broken pencil sharpener and


it looked like a rake of slow paper cuts when 

you lifted your pant leg at the clinic while

the doctor spoke like a metronome about 

gathering things with sharp edges into a safe 

place until it felt like a screaming teakettle left 

too long on the stove and I


kept asking the invisible if I 

am strong enough to be the bear skin you need me to be 

am I thick enough to hold it all together and 

wrap myself fully around our hungry fears as 

the long grey face of winter pushes 

against the windows when 


you know

that I know

that we know

why there’s a pause between 

saying “I love you sweetheart” and “goodnight” now 

leaving our bedroom doors open just a bit to 

let a handful of light from the hallway plunge

into our shadows connecting 

my bed to 


Peter Engen grew up in the oldest Norwegian settlement west of the Mississippi as well as on the fly with his sometime itinerant parents. He has lived most of his life in the hills and unglaciated valleys of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Some of his deepest poet yearnings were sought and quenched in the megalopolis cities of New York and Los Angeles before returning to his roots in the upper Midwest. He currently lives part-time on a solar-powered, green architecture farm near La Crosse Wisconsin.