Maria Terrone

A Close Brush with Death & Evolution

Formaldehyde fumes wafted
through fissures in the floor,
through air ducts, cracks in walls—
a clear failure of construction
in the shoddy modern building
that housed the Chief Medical Examiner
and, I supposed, his morgue.
Just a thin membrane
between him and us,

the primate journal editor and me,
the eager interviewee. I struggled
to focus on her words
as she leaned forward to describe
the job I wasn’t offered: to proofread
abstracts and articles that try
to explain human beginnings, while
one floor below, others probed
the mystery of how life came to end.

The Blank Billboard

Its whiteness

      on the subway tile 

in this tangled wood

a welcome abyss 

to stop by on this snowy evening

and linger before the roaring  

comes to take me.

The framed blankness

a word-less space 

and image-less,

    but crowded on all sides by ads.


      at the end of the platform,

I squint and stare 

as if at the white

of my eye magnified 

     through crosshairs.

The Source

Lichen clings to the weathered bench

                        in the hedge-encircled spot

where I sit, in retreat from last night’s dreams.

First pink of a dogwood so pale against 

                        the early light, struggling

like all new things to be seen. 

                        Not yet—the blossoms

still a painter’s brushstroke of becoming. 

A small bird flits past, head and chest daubed

                        the rosy-orange tint of dawn, 

blithe spirit vanishing into a tree’s cave. Warblers

                        whistle complex tunes to one another, 

each green immensity harboring

a hidden chorus. This morning is a mystery

                        that leaves a few clues—

the breeze brushing my shoulder 

                        like a knowing stranger, 

and that Pied Piper trail of notes I’ll follow

to the source despite the distant traffic thrum—

                        now, more insistent.


Maria Terrone‘s poetry collections are Eye to Eye (Bordighera Press); A
Secret Room in Fall (McGovern Prize, Ashland Poetry Press), The Bodies We
Were Loaned,
and a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2. Her work, published in
French and Farsi, has appeared in media including Poetry, Ploughshares and
Poetry Daily and in more than 25 anthologies. She is also poetry editor of
Italian Americana. At Home in the New World (Bordighera Press) was her
creative nonfiction debut.