Kate Peper


Inside an Antebellum mansion,
I saw where a belle had carved her name
into a window to prove, the plaque read,
the jewel given to her by her betrothed
was indeed a diamond.

Over a century later, the glass
is sagging as glass does
when it wants to go back to sand.
The Spanish moss looked even draggier
past her name, the lone dogwood,
a wobbly halo.

I don’t get chemistry: this bonding,
cooling off, falling apart.
Doesn’t anything stay still?
I think of her corset stays,
made from whale, ocean, sun,

expanding each time she took a breath
writing with her diamond on glass—
exhaling after each letter.
How they made her back stiff
in her fiancé’s hands holding her waist,
while they danced a slow waltz,
his breath warm, cheeks flushed,
her chin turned away, her eyes
not meeting his but her feet as sure
as anything on the parquet.

Would I know how she felt
if not for her name sinking
and blurring with the glass,
diamond glittering on the hard table
so different from the hand that gave it?