Sounds like a species of coral,
or a flute carved from animal bone.
Not lesions on my father’s left lung,
sheath of hard plaque tumors,
flesh trophies from his labors.
Fixed boiler pipes rife with asbestos,
installed tiles of this fireproof mineral
in housing projects now crumbling.
Worked decades as a one-man show
with a truck of tools & a flimsy mask
barely filtering drywall & joint compound
shot through with tremolite filaments.
Millimeter fibers latticed his lungs,
amassed cells in crazed refrain,
rinds of sharp grit binding his breath.
Dust clouds followed him home.
I costumed myself in his work clothes.


The first tumor distends
through his shirt like a cartoon
heart beating out of its chest––
others wrangling liver & spleen.
We are carrion & meteor, our meat
dressed in fire & diaphanous gas.
How to measure dark matter
amidst bright coordinates of stars?
At the cusp, as breath constricts,
slows––we betroth to zero,
held in a dilating spotlight.

Willa Carroll

WILLA CARROLL is the author of Nerve Chorus, forthcoming from The Word Works in 2018. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, Tuesday; An Art Project, 5AM, and elsewhere. She was the winner of Tupelo Quarterly's TQ7 Poetry Prize and Narrative Magazine's Third Annual Poetry Contest. Video readings of her poems were featured in Narrative Magazine and Tuesday; A Reading Project. Carroll holds MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and has taught at universities, writing centers, and public schools. A former dancer and actor, she has collaborated with numerous performers and multimedia artists, including her filmmaker husband in NYC.

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