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Death explodes the day so delicately

Three poems by Marjorie Maddox

Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry.
Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry.

A House Divided

  • The toppling wakes me
  • from sleep, that sweet retreat
  • to denial, the state that makes it
  • easier to dismiss destruction. Open eyes
  • collect dust, allow the beams in
  • near the iris, adjust the view
  • dramatically. When pretenses come down,
  • everything’s a window
  • for catastrophic collapse
  • but also light.
  • Look, you can see
  • the sun just to the right
  • of the wrecking ball.

A Man in an Armani Business Suit

  • Waits for the Light
  • Confidently toting a leather briefcase
  • a shade lighter than the T-bone I devoured
  • last week at Maurice’s, he stops at Don’t Walk,
  • pushes the prescribed button, keeps reciting —
  • louder than my last ten PowerPoint lectures combined —
  • apocalyptic revelations, chapter and verse
  • of horse and rider, bloody plagues, visions, all
  • while staring straight ahead in his meticulously pressed suit,
  • past me in my foot-on-the-brake new Saab to the other side
  • of Market. He waits patiently for the right sign
  • to act, his mouth still moving,
  • and I look around for some ventriloquist
  • in jeans and end-of-the-world T-shirt
  • to continue the damnation/salvation scenario,
  • but it’s just me and the unexpected suit
  • calmly spouting his proclamations at the 4-way
  • as he strolls a foot from my front bumper
  • along the pre-determined path of downtown pedestrians
  • clustered that moment between man-made lines
  • just before the light changes and predictable
  • rush hour traffic continues
  • the same as yesterday and the day
  • before that, and the day before that.

Again, Death

  • explodes the day so delicately
  • we recognize the fissures only
  • in retrospect: the slight sneer before,
  • the slanted glance, the beautiful
  • absence of anything
  • personal, all intricately stitched
  • into this portrait of power,
  • the thin crack tugged,
  • not lighted, till even our own
  • threaded logic begins
  • to unravel.
  • — April 15, 2013

Sage graduate fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and director of creative writing and professor of English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry, including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Transplant, Transplant, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). She’s the author of the short-story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite) and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), Maddox also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming soon. For more information, see marjoriemaddox.com.

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Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry.
Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry.

A House Divided

  • The toppling wakes me
  • from sleep, that sweet retreat
  • to denial, the state that makes it
  • easier to dismiss destruction. Open eyes
  • collect dust, allow the beams in
  • near the iris, adjust the view
  • dramatically. When pretenses come down,
  • everything’s a window
  • for catastrophic collapse
  • but also light.
  • Look, you can see
  • the sun just to the right
  • of the wrecking ball.

A Man in an Armani Business Suit

  • Waits for the Light
  • Confidently toting a leather briefcase
  • a shade lighter than the T-bone I devoured
  • last week at Maurice’s, he stops at Don’t Walk,
  • pushes the prescribed button, keeps reciting —
  • louder than my last ten PowerPoint lectures combined —
  • apocalyptic revelations, chapter and verse
  • of horse and rider, bloody plagues, visions, all
  • while staring straight ahead in his meticulously pressed suit,
  • past me in my foot-on-the-brake new Saab to the other side
  • of Market. He waits patiently for the right sign
  • to act, his mouth still moving,
  • and I look around for some ventriloquist
  • in jeans and end-of-the-world T-shirt
  • to continue the damnation/salvation scenario,
  • but it’s just me and the unexpected suit
  • calmly spouting his proclamations at the 4-way
  • as he strolls a foot from my front bumper
  • along the pre-determined path of downtown pedestrians
  • clustered that moment between man-made lines
  • just before the light changes and predictable
  • rush hour traffic continues
  • the same as yesterday and the day
  • before that, and the day before that.

Again, Death

  • explodes the day so delicately
  • we recognize the fissures only
  • in retrospect: the slight sneer before,
  • the slanted glance, the beautiful
  • absence of anything
  • personal, all intricately stitched
  • into this portrait of power,
  • the thin crack tugged,
  • not lighted, till even our own
  • threaded logic begins
  • to unravel.
  • — April 15, 2013

Sage graduate fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and director of creative writing and professor of English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry, including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Transplant, Transplant, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). She’s the author of the short-story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite) and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), Maddox also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming soon. For more information, see marjoriemaddox.com.

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