Literature 6-11-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: K. Alma Peterson

"What Light: This Week's Poem,” sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Get our new anthology at Magers and Quinn in Uptown!

K. Alma Peterson

Cutting Through

The earthworm has five hearts and one brain
A simple tunnel brain
with no cache

of vocabulary, no left / right
to argue / intuit

terrestris. Work of work, the meek pink
worm feasts on fallen leaves,
its leavings

feed the soil
< that feeds the plants that feed
the world (famous and anonymous) –

Here’s a poem,
I said to the earthworm
on my doorstep after last night’s rain:

digest it,
break it all the way down –
a wet leaf for the dirt god you are.


“Cutting Through” was inspired by a real life event: the appearance of one solitary earthworm on my doorstep. I’d never thought of an earthworm as a totem creature, but I think it’s a great totem for a poet: digesting, rearranging, even regenerating when cut in two! Seeing the worm on my doorstep sent me digging for information about the lowly creature, which led to the poem. I get up very early every day, and write for a couple of hours, until the birds wake up and start looking for me.


K. Alma Peterson (Rosemount, Minnesota) owns a small business and writes poems as time and inspiration allow. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The New Orphic Review, ArtWord Quarterly and others. In 1999, her poem “Between Us” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

The Juror

Sun Yung Shin was the juror who chose this poem for the series. She is the author of the poetry collection Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press); co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (South End Press); and author of Cooper’s Lesson (Children’s Book Press), a bilingual (Korean/English) illustrated book for children. She is a 2007 Bush Artist Fellow for Literature and has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation. Shin teaches at the Perpich Center for Arts Education. She believes in the revolutionary and revelatory possibilities of poetry.

Shin is currently working on a prose poem auto-ethnography (aka memoir) titled “HARNESS”; plus a three-book cycle of poems corresponding to the three waves of Korean immigration (1903, 1950-1953, and 1965).