Donna Pucciani

Wheaton, Illinois, United States

Poet’s statement: As I grow older, I see myself and my friends and family beset with various illnesses and approaching the end zone. My writing reflects this consideration. The poem “Seasons” looks at life and death in the context of nature. Most of us never really know when it is our last winter or spring. “Random” is a poem that addresses the aleatory nature of illness and death—how sometimes life and death seem like the roll of cosmic dice.

Seasons

In this season of bright moons and crickets

and sweat, unceasing rains of June
give way to drought. The cracked earth
of wanting opens, the grass thins
and browns, and one doesn’t water a dying lawn
while humans perish from thirst on a globe
tired of turning. The prairie is bleached and baking.
Deer shuffle out of the woods, stunned.

Snow drifted on this doorstep

Cricket, Photography by Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Photography by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

a few months ago. The rectangular

aluminum shovel testifies, where now
a garden spade rests with its clump
of dried clay at the mouth of the garage.
And there a half-filled bag of salt
kept us from falling. How we’d dreaded
another shifting blizzard, a sky full
of frozen white, another melt, another flood.

The crickets are rubbing loud tonight,
making a racket to wake the dead—
a cousin whose untimely demise surprised
winter on the treadmill; an elderly teacher
out east whose brilliant mind had shrunk
in her skull like a dried fig; then an old aunt
just short of her eightieth birthday, after
one of her ordinary falls.

Moon, sun, planets in their sad arcs
cast shadows or light on each other,
turning on timeless axes, passing
in silence but never touching, the slow
dance of orbits in space. Does one blame them
or God or the Fates for the randomness
of things? Hate the prairies for outlasting us,
despite lightning? Ask why this will be
someone’s last summer, why that particular
blade of grass survived between paving stones,
or why the speckled robin
trapped in a window-well lives on,
broken wing and all, because of rain?

 

 

 

 

Roulette, photography by Conor Ogle
Photography by Conor Ogle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random

To be one of the lucky ones
is to wallow in survivor guilt.
Just walk into the local hospital.
Amid the miraculous surgeries,
needles, and masks are legs limping
on crutches, heads wispily bald
from chemotherapy, children’s screams,
the deep coughing of smokers,
and the abiding presence of very bad news.
One woman in a coat of cheerful red
looks out the window at her final winter,
which lingers before her like old snow.

At church on Sunday,
she will pray for a cure.
The man next to her will thank
the same God for good health.
A passerby imagines God
as Marlon Brando, king of the jungle.
Another is sure no such being exists
in a great gambling casino
where sequined universes jangle and flash.

The doctor feels that God is not evil,
merely noncommittal, His halo
made of promises, His staff the wood
of a thousand crutches, His crown crafted
by the faithful, each jewel another petition,
each roll of the heavenly dice
another moment of hope in the cosmic crap shoot,
where all are comforted by blind angels
playing slot machines in the sky.


DONNA PUCCIANI has been published on four continents and has appeared in a variety of journals, including International Poetry Review, Iota, Shichao Poetry, LiPoetry, JAMA, Journal of Medical Humanities, Christianity and Literature, Iota, Christian Century, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific, Italian Americana, Istanbul Poetry Review, and nebu[lab]. Her books of poetry include The other side of thunder, Jumping off the train, Chasing the saints, and the newly-released To sip darjeeling at dawn. Her work has been translated into Italian and Chinese. She lives and writes in both the Chicago suburbs and Manchester, England.