The Larger

By Joanie Mackowski b. 1963 Joanie Mackowski
I don't know how it happened, but I fell—   
and I was immense, one dislocated arm   
wedged between two buildings. I felt some ribs   
had broken, perhaps a broken neck, too;   
I couldn't speak. My dress caught bunched   
about my thighs, and where my glasses shattered   
there'd spread something like a seacoast, or maybe   
it was a port. Where my hair tangled with power lines   
I felt a hot puddle of blood.   
                                                   I must have passed out,   
but when I woke, a crew of about fifty   
was building a winding stairway beside my breast   
and buttressing a platform on my sternum.   
I heard, as through cotton, the noise of hammers,   
circular saws, laughter, and some radio   
droning songs about love. Out the corner   
of one eye (I could open one eye a bit) I saw   
my pocketbook, its contents scattered, my lipstick's   
toppled silo glinting out of reach.   
And then, waving a tiny flashlight, a man   
entered my ear. I felt his boots sloshing   
the blood trickling there. He never came out.   
So some went looking, with flares, dogs, dynamite   
even: they burst my middle ear and found   
my skull, its cavern crammed with dark matter   
like a cross between a fungus and a cloud.   
They never found his body, though. And they never   
found or tried to find an explanation,   
I think, for me; they didn't seem to need one.   
Even now my legs subdue that dangerous   
sea, the water bright enough to cut   
the skin, where a lighthouse, perched on the tip   
of my great toe, each eight seconds rolls   
another flawless pearl across the waves.   
It keeps most ships from wrecking against my feet.   
On clear days, people stand beside the light;   
they watch the waves' blue heads slip up and down   
and scan for landmarks on the facing shore.

Source: Poetry (October 2003).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 2003
 Joanie  Mackowski


Joanie Mackowski’s collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). She received a BA from Wesleyan University, was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and received a PhD from the University of Missouri. A professor at Cornell University, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She is the winner of the 2003 Kate Tufts . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Nature, Death, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Allusion, Metaphor, Persona

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