An Autopsy of an Era || from The Awl

That’s how it was then, a knife
through cartilage, a body broken. Animal
and animal as mineral ash. A window smashed.
The collective howl as a general alarm
followed by quiet. 

Boot-black night,
halogen hum. Tape snaking through
a stealth machine. Later, shattered glass
and a checkpoint charm—the clasp
of a tourist-trap bracelet. An arm. A trinket.

Snap goes the clamshell. The film
in the braincase preserving the sense
of the drench, the angle of the leash,
the connecting collar. A tracking long-shot.
The descent of small-town darkness.



Mary Jo Bang is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Washington University in St. Louis and the author of six books of poems, including Louise in LoveElegy, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The Bride of E. Her translation of Dante’s Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, was published by Graywolf Press in 2012. A new collection, The Last Two Seconds, is forthcoming from Graywolf in March of 2015.


An Autopsy of an Era” first appeared in The Awl in October 2010.