photo by Rebecca Seiferle

In the grey hour after morning prayers
    the news opens to that
       fireball, extinguished star

hole in the city where Paradise fell
& fell
    & fell, the ash-filled streets
the grey hour, the woman's white
    the world is insane,
       she is saying

Photos of the beloved in green
   & silver frames on desks
of the workers, a white mug
       of coffee, a red
purse, the words
of angels caught
    in a thousand exploding

One explosion, then another,
       white light
all the photos sliced
   from their frames

A sidewalk of flowers:
       turned grey
as the cerebral cortex, row after
    row lined up neatly
against the broken street

The Red Angel hovers
on a stained glass window
in Hohenschwangau; now
   she is taking
inventory-- the innumerable
   broken stars, reams
of charred paper in the blackened
       rooms, the rings
& rings of messages
   spinning, unheard
on the voicemail, goddamit
don't turn that TV on says the man
   to his wife in Queens
       two days
after the Inferno

One burnt slice of toast
   is left on a white plate
on the white kitchen counter;
       we fix
a late breakfast-- coffee, raisin
   bread, an orange--
       after drinking
   & dancing past
midnight, unconsoled

Dear Lisa,
   Some of the trees are
turning a deep scarlet along
the Lamoille River & wind
   is cold. Phuong
is flying home to his
comatose son in Vietnam,
    Ho Chi Mihn
       City, red
    lanterns; I imagine
them waving in the plum dusk

A blizzard of leaves--oak & maple,
   silver birch, this brilliance
of autumn in Vermont,
   the mourning of cities,
of their beloved, a thousand
       upon a thousand
calling from under
   a soot heaven.
Rita Maria Magdaleno. Vermont Studios, 9/14/01.
"A Handful of Branches," photo by Rebecca Seiferle.