The Beginning

In the beginning of the hour when the moon
folded back into the sunset,
its cool bubble shone

through drops slowing up
toward the icicle beard on a traffic light
which blinked from green to red.

Still alive, you rose back toward the car
which itself backed away and fled
down the interstate in reverse.

It was the month the snow undraped
dead leaves as they unclenched
and shifted from red to green,

letting there be less light
beneath the branches. By your age, “Ma”
turned to “am” as your fresh mouth

opened to receive the word,
the memory of which was forgetting
whatever you had yet to ask.

Later—earlier—you forgot the world
you could never be made to recall.
Swallowed back, not yet loved,

you curled from blood pulsing warmth
into the dark of bubbles merging, mute,
uncomprehending, into a shrinking moon.


About the Author

Stephen Massimilla is a poet, scholar, professor, and painter. His multi-genre volume, Cooking with the Muse (Tupelo, 2016), won the Eric Hoffer Book Award, the National Indie Excellence Award, the Independent Author Network Book of the Year Award, and others. His recent collection, The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat, was selected in the Stephen F. Austin University Press Prize contest, and his volume Almost a Second Thought was runner-up for the Salmon Run National Poetry Book Award, selected by X.J. Kennedy. He has also received the Bordighera Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday (CUNY); the Grolier Prize for Later on Aiaia; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; multiple Pushcart Prize nominations; and other honors. He holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches literary modernism, among other subjects, at Columbia University and The New School.