The Accounts

Paperback | September 19, 2013

byKatie Peterson

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The death of a mother alters forever a family’s story of itself. Indeed, it taxes the ability of a family to tell that story at all. The Accounts narrates the struggle to speak with any clear understanding in the wake of that loss. The title poem attempts three explanations of the departure of a life from the earth—a physical account, a psychological account, and a spiritual account. It is embedded in a long narrative sequence that tries to state plainly the facts of the last days of the mother’s life, in a room that formerly housed a television, next to a California backyard. The visual focus of that sequence, a robin’s nest, poised above the family home, sings in a kind of lament, giving its own version of ways we can see the transformation of the dying into the dead. In other poems, called “Arguments,” two voices exchange uncertain truths about subjects as high as heaven and as low as crime. Grief is a problem that cannot be solved by thinking, but that doesn’t stop the mind, which relentlessly carries on, trying in vain to settle its accounts. The death of a well-loved person creates a debt that can never be repaid. It reminds the living of our own psychological debts to each other, and to the dead. In this sense, the death of this particular mother and the transformation of this particular family are evocative of a greater struggle against any changing reality, and the loss of all beautiful and passing forms of order.

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The death of a mother alters forever a family’s story of itself. Indeed, it taxes the ability of a family to tell that story at all. The Accounts narrates the struggle to speak with any clear understanding in the wake of that loss. The title poem attempts three explanations of the departure of a life from the earth—a physical account, ...

Katie Peterson is professor of the practice of poetry at Tufts University. She is the author of two other collections of poetry, This One Tree and Permission. She lives in Somerville, MA.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:104 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 inPublished:September 19, 2013Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022606266X

ISBN - 13:9780226062662

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

ONE: SPRING 

Elegy
Argument about Heaven
Sore Throat
Argument about Appetite
The Replacement
Earth
When Fruit and Flowers Hung Thick Falling
Allied Arts
Argument about the Beginning
Enough
Beauty
Rest
Wilderness

TWO: THE BODY

The Garden
Nest
Foresight
Symbol
A Potter
Eulogy
Riot
From the Nest
The Accounts
The Body
Radiation

THREE: I AM THE MIDDLE

I Am the Middle
From This House That House
Earth
Confession
Argument about Silence
Animals
Argument about Responsibility
Ars Poetica: Fuchsia
Gods
Winter
Snake

Editorial Reviews

"Peterson mindfully documents grief's intricacies from unexpected angles. . . . Peterson's music isn't easy; or rather, it isn't simple. It's rich, well-conceived, and reveals its maker as one of great integrity and intelligence."