Two Poems by Elaine Terranova


Betrothal at the Well

At a well, a maiden (na'arah)

is drawing water.  A stranger arrives.

He is footsore, weary.  The maiden,

hospitable, invites him home.

The stranger has run away, he has

been driven away, he has come to seek

his fortune.  He has come for her.

This she knows and doesn't know.

She only hopes.  It is why she is

so often at the well. The water

is her future. Her brother welcomes him,

"Come in, O blessed of the Lord,"

examines the stranger's gifts, nose ring

and bracelets, that already attach

the maiden to him.  Not surprisingly,

the stranger asks for the maiden's hand.

Maybe not for himself, maybe he

is a servant, his master has sent him.

If so she has wasted that first look

with her heart.  And he, his imagining,

his anticipation.  Could it be otherwise?

Behold: a manservant, in spite of his thirst.

A cipher, only meant to hold the place.

The covenant depends on it.


Death Came at Me

on a motorcycle

into the intersection at 50 miles per

with no helmet

arms open,

legs branching.

Ahead, I saw him, and behind

in the rearview, where he

completed the turn,


from his simple machine,

sheen of red on asphalt.


And wasn't that death, too,

halting but deliberate,

weak and in rags,

death, unmistakable,

approaching our fancy,

outdoor lunch

as my friend tapped out her troubles:

not good

no more

not again,

-which was her life-

with a teaspoon on the table.


I wouldn't look up, wouldn't give

the dollar's worth

of attention he demanded,

something to eat.  But I found him

again, later, another day, taste

of morning, steel in my mouth,

Death, advancing

at the same

ceremonial pace.

Issue 2

Back to Archive