Poems by Maria Terrone


Axolotl: Knowing/Not Knowing

“I imagined them aware, slaves of their bodies,
condemned infinitely to the silence of the abyss,
to a hopeless meditation.”
— Julio Cortázar


I couldn’t imagine what I didn’t know, and for that I blame Kant and the night-long agony
——–of a Modern Philosophy term paper, still felt. The first stage of my knowing: sudden
—————-exposure to that photo of a tiny sea creature, nearly extinct—are we verging
————————on that?—albinos like humans floating in their sacs, a mystery
——————————–of gills and feet co-existing, the metamorphosis stage
—————————————-skipped. Intrigued, I searched for more images,

beguiled by their flattened oval heads, slits slapped on mid-face that mimic a smile,
——–miniature fingernails, and sprouts of sparse red hair. Think: Bozo the Clown.
—————-Think again: evil Bozo, the Clown Doll Possessed. I didn’t know,
————————so I searched some more, spent whole days in exotic pet sites
——————————–advertising “the world’s cutest salamander,” then opened
—————————————-the wrong door and fell into Julio Cortázar’s tale,

thrust into the misery of his knowing with that story of a man also obsessed
——–who presses his face daily against aquarium glass in a quest to understand
—————-axolotl consciousness, to divine the meaning of its blind gaze until
————————he became the creature, observing himself outside the glass,
——————————–and I, his hapless reader, became a deep sea diver
—————————————-with a bad case of the bends, helpless in the abyss.


A TV Western for the Age of Contagion


The clock ticks, but its stilled hands
are shackled. Has the sheriff arrested time?

The deserted street below our window exists
both in and outside time, like the minutes
before a Dodge City shootout.

We’re the townspeople who’ve fled,
tense in our hiding,

but no black-hatted villain has appeared,
no vanquishing hero stands ready for a face off.
When I dare to venture outside,

my gloved fingers twitch, unnerved
by all the passing triggers of destruction.

I bind my mouth
with a bandit’s red bandana
to protect others from the virus I may carry,

knowing that every masked stranger
may pack a hidden, lethal weapon.


Maria Terrone‘s 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. At Home in the New World is her creative nonfiction debut.


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