By Miriam Vermilya Miriam Vermilya
On a slab of Jurassic shale, an ovate
body, legs fine as eyelashes,
the mayfly's precise signature,
consummate, immortal.

Now its descendents, in a tumult
of mating, roil the air on Koerner's
sluggish creek below the hill
where the Ebenezer Baptist church,

its doors agape, declines daily
into dust and rubble.
Beyond the church, the graveyard
encroached by nightshade

and nettle, its stones listing
or broken or gone, a few bearing
words now scarcely visible:
Eliza, Beloved Wife . . . In Perpetual . . . .

A million years from now the stricken
stones will be scoured clean
and ephemerids will rise each spring
to dance above the clouded waters.

Source: Poetry (September 1999).


This poem originally appeared in the September 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

September 1999


Miriam Vermilya, a longtime grade-school teacher and an accomplished painter based in Greenville, Ohio, cofounded the Greenville Poets in 1985. The group assembled Vermilya’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated collection of poetry, Heartwood (2000), following her death in 1999. The volume, which also won the Walt McDonald First Book Award from Texas Tech University Press, contains Vermilya’s thoughts on life, marriage, the deaths of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Nature, Living, Death, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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