Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Thinking of my dying grandmother at the Natural History Museum

Roxana Cazan
Altoona, Pennsylvania, United States


Bosnian landscape. Photo by Melisa Javier-Wetklow.  

At the Natural History Museum
in Salt Lake City, I am promised
“the assemblage of nature’s ultimate
machine,” its precise lurking,
one foot crossing the Silurian,
its simian lurch trapped behind
shatterproof glass.
I zigzag through the dinosaur world,
the tender bend of boney necks,
their petrified savagery minted
into thick layers of shale,
their swift death on display.
When I pass by a diorama
showing the evolution of humans from apes,
skulls shatter and crack,
and I think this day, in this museum,
I hear the boiling
of my spectacular middle age,
and I wonder what will become of me,
what of my grandmother,
a woman trapped still
behind a glass curtain of illness,
the body fouling the air,
the heart precipitating into silence
as if her life belongs to the ruses
of geological becoming.
I think about how
undignified death is
its slow whirl,
its disgusting drag,
and I know here in this museum
that death is the secret,
the shoe brush shining our path.





ROXANA L. CAZAN is an Assistant Professor of English at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches world and postcolonial literature and creative writing. She is a translator of Romanian. Her translation of Matei Vişniec’s “Teeth” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Reunion, at UT Dallas. Her poems have been featured in Cold Creek Review, The Healing Muse, Adanna Literary Journal, Watershed Review, Allegro Poetry, the Peeking Cat Anthology, The Portland Review, Harpur Palate and others. Her full-length poetry book, The Accident of Birth, has just been published by Main Street Rag in 2017. Dr. Cazan’s scholarly work focuses on ethnic and postcolonial literature and women’s studies and has appeared in Neophilologus, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Comparative Literature Studies, Studies in American Jewish Literature, American Journal of Undergraduate Research, and Demeter Press. A chapter is forthcoming in Remembering Kahina: Women, Representation and Resistance in Post-Independence North Africa, Routledge


Fall 2018  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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