November 1999

Elaine Terranova

Elaine Terranova Elaine Terranova is the author of two books of poems, Damages (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) and The Cult of the Right Hand, which won the 1990 Walt Whitman Award from The Academy of American Poets. Her translation of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis is part of the Penn Greek Drama Series.

Floater    Click to hear in real audio

I had to push myself
away from the window to watch TV,
even the Democratic convention,
police marching behind shields
like gladiators.

And all that summer, I was mindful
of what I was using up,
water, paper, daylight, even the thoughts
going through my head.

Paula had lent me the apartment.
She’d gone to the country,
an abandoned farm where hunters wintered—
I imagined bats wheeling around
the dome of a barn, and below,
children on bikes, echoing their shrieks.
Later, parents who read bedtime stories
very fast, racing sleep.

I was here because I had walked out of my life.
I was a floater,
like those first-year birds
who wait for the chance to swoop down
and quickly replace the territorial bird.
There were plants to water,
but I could leave them, Paula said.
Dark green succulents
that stuck up like thumbs.
The tables were topped
with collections of shells and stones.
But so little could I find
in this place that I wanted,
string and fasteners in a kitchen drawer,
a melonballer. I ate

in the coffee shop around the corner
where cakes were left in a glass pillar,
their icings hardening like paint.

Once, I let in the immigrant janitor
to fix a leak, but after that
I kept it dark and no one came.




Elaine Terranova: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue NineThe Cortland Review