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For more poetry by Elaine Terranova

See our feature of The Dog's Heart

See our feature Frigate in Fall 2001

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For more Poetry




Elaine Terranova Elaine Terranova


Near Night

The lights of earth come out like stars.
On the hillside, cows hunch like tombstones.
Each makes a plea in the dark.

Out of a tunnel, the yellow beams of cars.
Perhaps I am dead. Perhaps I am being shown
the lights of earth. They come out like stars.

Houses winking shyly, spark by spark,
the wild red hair of asparagus overgrown,
each makes a plea in the dark.

The bright face of the past is never far.
We move, half-blind, in a realm of time alone.
Then the lights of earth come out like stars.

Orange lamps swing out on poles in the park
into the unexpected, the unknown.
Each makes its plea in the dark.

Across the patent leather of the lake, winds moan,
and who is not aware within us of shining bone?
The lights of earth come out like stars.
Each makes a plea in the dark.


Bed and Breakfast

We drive on, hoping for fair weather,
but it's gray Connemara. There is only rain,
or mist that is an afterthought of rain.
And by now it's night, which muddies everything.
Without meaning to, we've passed the town,
rain swirling past in the gutters. We're lost
without human markers, until I spot on our map
the shrine and two bisecting roads. The sign

says B & B, and we take the clear path of light
into someone's parlor. She's lively, ginger-haired.
She sets out tea for us, settles us beside
a sweet turf fire. She tells us where we are—
so near the North a TV crew is shooting
a documentary on The Troubles.
“Anyhow, we've our own troubles here.”
As if the curse of a powerful enemy
were enough to rot the bones.
For by then, I've spotted him, his face
gray as a pot. Even seated, he's a giant.
She says, “He used to be a bouncer.”
A tiny, red-haired girl is flickering
at the doorway. “So ill. Must tell the kids.
They know he isn't right.” And I see what he,
what we are all depending on,
her continuing voice and the hearth
with its steady thread of flame.


Lila's Word, Her Vigil

“There are no windows
at the shelter.” How can
she see daylight? And,
“You don't eat unless you work.”

She must flush the halls
end to end with water,
snap hospital corners on the beds.
At night a flashlight
pins her to the mattress.
What she carries in and out,
all that she's collected
from her life, gets broken
into smaller and smaller pieces
like the bones of a saint.

No wonder she will slip away.
Not some showy place,
not a corner with her hand out.
But back into doorways, under bridges.
When she gets a dollar,
eat what she wants. Happy to sleep
with the winding sirens.

Then, hour by hour,
the sun drops down
a little closer, the birds swing
from branch to branch
like great chords of music.