The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Peggy Hamilton’s “Questions for Animals”



I. Where is the field

that is wet from the rain that must run from us or be made steam
because what we are doing is our shelter and we may not stop, not
yet, not while there is breath, not while there is hunger, not now, not from this?

Where is the field that we have turned and turned again taken out of
eaten from put our backs into, sweat into, blood yes
and tears when each thought the other wasn’t looking?

Where is the place

before it was the field, of grass like knives and rock and flash
flood and the rut and harden our moving made?

Did you ever guess each time you apologized for not having made it to water
before dark, I smiled no matter, but never told you why:
I could scour the dishes with salt or sand, night falling overhead,
quarter-hour by quarter-hour, and watch you tie down the animals, the tent,
and bring the old skin off my hands.

Poor stars,
younger and more and closer then,
could only crowd the sky with wanting you and watch.
We, pounding bones on bones on ground: you said here
is the difference
between the force that makes dust
and the force that makes coal
between the force that makes coal and
the force that makes
diamonds you told me here
you showed me
and every morning the children’s eyes glittered like yours where are
they now.

II. What if what we know is wrong?

Look what made us. Our lives. Look what we can do: we can take one more step
and then the next for miles through fires of burning lungs and muscles. We can hold
our breath and lift what we cannot lift. Then carry it at a dead run. Into the ocean
and swim. Take it over walls into crawl spaces and then the coup. We can throw it
not away but high when our hands are needed for the next thing because up

it’s hidden. Nobody expects it there. Nobody ever thinks to look. Especially when
we are standing still. With all the promise of a spring. Maintaining an unwavering
look knowing that

even in its ascent, from the moment of release, the heavy thing is speeding back.
The force of an entire cosmos conspiring for the crash. But it can’t have that: we can
also catch.

This is the one condition, the trick. To catch it unsuspected, unseen, you must
mimic the motion of the thing. Drop. Appear to fall. Prostrate. Then up onto
your knees. What they see you catch is their gaze on the curve of your back, your
thigh. They struggle to regain your unblinking eye. That seems like it has been
there, on their indiscretion, all the time. You have taught them to mistrust their
own intentions. This is the origin of prayer. This is the power of kneeling: simple


Stand. No hands. Faster or slower than they thought possible. They gasp.
Motionless one moment longer is your face. Then it smiles. They feel grateful to
have been spared. Which means mortal in your presence ever after. This is the
power of what is known as


Story is sly.
Niobe, catastrophe’s open womb, denied the grave, rest, dust, dilution. Cast to be
the monument of her loss, never once to stretch or bend or again have bones and
aching that would ease in time’s bed. Seed unsown, she becomes immortal stone
instead. What


to the wife of the man whose music beguiled rocks into walls. Did Zeus not know
Amphion could touch her still? The storyteller did. What

punishment. Or consolation. The story becomes ever slier. And it is not just stones
that weep and love the lyre.

III. What is there such a thing as?

Our fathers, specks on decks on boats on oceans
may very well have taken their bearings by the lights of stars
that were no longer there even then. There are more now. Distance makes its

And the horizon
an illusory meeting. Real enough to steady your stomach. Neither true nor false.
You do not have to know it is optics. You do not have to believe.
We can do


This selection comes from Peggy Hamilton’s book Questions for Animals, available from Ahsahta Press. Purchase your copy here!

Peggy Hamilton, a native Miamian, received her BA in English from Barry University, and her MFA in Poetry from FAU in 2007. She is the author of QUESTIONS FOR ANIMALS (2013) and FORBIDDEN CITY (2003), both from Ahsahta Press. She’s a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Grant in Literature for Poetry, and an honoree in the State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Children’s literature. She’s been a finalist in the National Poetry Series, Barnard New Women Poet’s Series, the CSU Poetry Prize, and the Heekin Group Foundation’s Novel-in-Progress Award. She’s taught community writing seminars at FIU and the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, has read poetry and performed with Devorah Major, poet laureate of San Francisco, at a Miami International Book Fair event called “Performing Persona.” Before teaching at FAU as a graduate student, then as an instructor, she was a jury consultant and grant writer, and taught grant-funded intensive programs for young adults, many of whom were in residential foster or treatment programs, or correctional facilities. Currently she lives in East Tennessee, and is Director of Programs for a nonprofit educational startup that will offer residential writing workshops to high school students as they prepare for college.

T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently four sparks fall: a novella (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2013) and, with Erin Elizabeth Smith, Skate or Die (Dusie Kollektiv, 2014). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Reunion: The Dallas ReviewWest Wind Review, HobartNinth Letter, and Phoebe, among others. A weightlifter, crafter, priestess, and all-around woman of action, she serves as the Associate Editor of Sundress Publications, Founding Editor of Flaming Giblet Press, and Literary Arts Director for the Sundress Academy of the Arts.



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