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
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
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
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.