The First Poem I Ever Wrote by Peter Schjeldahl

BOMB 4 Fall 1982
004 Summer Fall 1982

It was the last day of filth grade, 1953. In the afternoon we went with our teacher to the town athletic field for a picnic and games. At some point I lay on the grass and looked at the sky. There was a hawk soaring around up there. This wasn’t unusual, but it gave me a strange feeling I sat up and started writing.

It was a poem in stanzas, and I knew it was a poem because it looked like one. All I remember of it is a one-line chorus that repeated after every stanza:

Winged avenger from the skies!

When the poem was finished I felt dazed. I took it to the teacher. She read it and said something like: “That’s nice, Peter very unpleasant What does it mean? What does the avenger want to avenge?”

I should have answered, “It wants to rip your throat out.” It was five or six years before I wrote my second poem.

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My hands are suddenly ice-cold. 

Originally published in

BOMB 4, Fall 1982

Mary Heilmann & Ellen Phelan, Georgia Marsh, Paul Bowles, Michael McClard, and Duncan Hannah. Cover by Mary Heilmann.

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004 Summer Fall 1982