posted in: Aging, Fiction, Poetry | 0

Oh, for Pete’s sake! Works by Peter Lucas, Kimberly Peterson and Peter Hornbostel.
7 minutes


We were so busy celebrating the start of 2023 a couple weeks ago that we totally forgot that January 8-14 was National Pizza Week! We apologize to those of you that tuned in that week expecting to hear fine literature about pepperoni and anchovies and the relative merits of New York versus Chicago style. To make up for that omission, this edition of Burning Bright features Petes, writers who have Pete in their names.  

Peter Lucas said, after remembering ads from his childhood about a device that let you throw your voice, “I spent the afternoon drive trying my best to sound words with the nasty five — b, f, m, p, & v — without moving my lips. Doesn’t take much to amuse a 73-year-old retiree.” Here’s Peter Lucas’s poem “Ventriloquist.” 

The bow-tied ventriloquist lobs his voice — a parabola of syllables —
over the field for his puppet boy 
to grab and mouth as though his own.  
But like a sun-blinded outfielder, boy stops. Still staring up as all  
the vowels, nouns and verbs, fall about his feet, unspoken, unheard.  
His bow tie bobbing on his Adam’s apple, the man berates & scolds the boy,  
who points to a winged-boy in the cloudless sky, then holds out his arms and spins about  
like the winged-boy kettling up like a kestrel in lazy graceful spirals to the sun.  

“Ventriloquist,” Peter Lucas, from Passager Issue 67

Kimberly Peterson said that after her husband died and she started dating again, she found that the rules had changed. Here’s her poem “Scratched & Dented.” 

His condo now serving as a dusty closet,  
he proposes a merger of house- 
holds, to cut costs, of course. 
The only ring he offers her,  
burned into his mahogany coffee table  
by a candle wick blazing so blood  
orange, it scorched through its holder.  

Much of her newer furniture is relegated to the basement.  
He refers to When Harry Met Sally and wagon 
wheel table kicked to the curb to justify 
defending his male treasures. His end  
tables were scratched by barn  
tabbies matted with manure when  
he accepted them from a blond ex,  
one in a litter of feral lovers.  

A connoisseur of slightly damaged, 
he picked her from a line of speed 
daters, plump, potato-eyed, middle-aged women, bruised  
by first marriages, ripe 
with lowered expectations.  

It’s years before he trusts her sand- 
paper against the furniture’s rough edges.  
The knot she finds beneath 
the coffee table burn is like the one 
tied around his tongue by his father’s  
belt buckle.  

He continues to Han Solo reply I know  
to all her I love yous, despite the  
softness she sees edging 
his soapstone eyes.  

Although House and Home 
never features their décor, she relishes  
her coups de coeurs when she sees  
their eclectic collection of dented  
furniture together.  

Kimberly Peterson’s “Scratched & Dented” from Passager Issue 67

Peter Hornbostel said he wrote “Bolero” in Brazil’s former mining town of Ouro Preto while sitting on a wall outside the beautiful old Sao Francisco church. Here are some excerpts — ever so slightly edited to make them work without the rest of the story. 

Joao Custodio dos Santos and Teresinha moved around the floor with the grace 
and elegance of dancers who had danced together for decades. In fact, they had . . .

“Joaquim,” said Teresinha’s mother to her husband one Saturday night some twenty-five years ago, “perhaps we should take Teresinha with us to the bolero tonight.”  

As soon as the family entered the hall and sat down, a young man came over to the table . . . “Would the senhorita care to dance?” Joao dos Santos asked Teresinha. Teresinha shook her head a vigorous no but her mother quickly answered, “Oh, she’d be delighted.”  

And so Teresinha obediently stood up and walked out onto the floor with the young man.  

And so, every Saturday night for the last twenty-five years he and Teresinha had danced together at the bolero on the second floor of number 132 in the Rua Sao Jose. Physically, they didn’t fit together very well – one about five feet tall and the other almost six, but they danced so well together that no one noticed. 

Joao Custodio was holding in his arms the slimmest, most graceful woman 
in the hall. And they had never been out together.  

“Well,” he thought, “it’s now or never.”  

He gracefully moved Teresinha closer to him, so that her left ear was close to his mouth.  

“Would you like to have dinner with me on Monday?” he said.  

For the first time in almost twenty-five years, Teresinha’s right foot stepped too close to his left foot, his foot bumped her middle toe, and for a moment, they stumbled out of beat.  

“No,” she said, and spun out to her left, although he hadn’t signaled a spin.  

“Thank God,” he said. “Me neither.”  

She spun her body back close to his, their feet back in perfect harmony with the rhythm. “But we can dance,” she said.  

Excerpts from Peter Hornbostel’s story “Bolero” from Passager Issue 52

To subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts and various other podcast apps. 

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.