Poetry

SN1987AZT

by
• 256 words

A common year beginning in my memory.
By March, in dark pools beneath Lake Erie
And in the zinc mines of Kamioka Mining &
Smelting Company, Gifu Prefecture,
Neutrinos from a collapsing supergiant
On the outskirts of the Large Magellanic
Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy, caromed
Through sensitive, hyper-purified water.
I was eight years old. For the first time
In nearly four hundred years a supernova
Was visible to the naked eye from Las
Campanas Observatory, Chilean Andes,
To the Nōbi Plain, where the great sword-
Makers of the shogunates are remembered
And the clear river waters drawn for sake.
I was thirty-eight years old. That spring,
While night contracted to its most exquisite
Northern density, the decaying light grew
Brighter in its deep pool of space above
The Salish Sea and the Morton Salt girl
In her short smock and yellow Mary Janes,
Who’d been walking that faded billboard
With her umbrella in the ever-sleet, outside
Fairport Harbour, Ohio, for so long she could no
Longer be seen by the commuters flowing
West along Route 2 to Cleveland.
I was sixty-eight years old. Then, in June,
After the persimmons bloomed in Gifu
And the Nagara River lipped its levies,
After doctors in Miami and New York City
First wrote scripts for low-dose AZT,
A drug that inhibits reverse transcription
And production of complementary DNA,
That crystallizes into a salt superstructure,
As in the Morton mines below Lake Erie,
The light began to fade. I was ninety-eight.

This appeared in the January/February 2014 issue.

Matt Rader (mattrader.com) has published numerous collections and chapbooks, including A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno.