Poetry: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Matthew Tuckner

In Matthew Tuckner’s elegy, the poem becomes a microcosm of the world and writing the urgent act of capturing “the many things / I don’t want you to miss,” the precision of its speaker’s language laden with the highest stakes. This is a poem we’ll keep with us, returning to the power of making “nothing happen, forever” in the face of impending loss.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Trumpet, a bloodhound, won Best in Show
the day the chemo failed you.

Nonetheless, the world to put into words,
a turquoise marble in a toddler’s mouth.

Nonetheless, turquoise, toddlers, fitful
patterns of weather in the sunniest winter

on record, the steam devils, the landspouts,
screengrabs of a photograph of the trees

of heaven spinning their windmills of
whirlybirds, deepfaked into phosphorescence,

a slice of nature I bring to your bedside,
scribbling elegies for the many things

I don’t want you to miss, toggling
between black, red, or liver

to describe the folds of skin
sagging from Trumpet’s chin.

I write down the words “fossil on a budget.”
I write down an anaphora of tomorrows,

populating them with gluey sunsets & whale
sightings, the safety of the ocean from the shore.

Tomorrow, when they say, heads
tilted towards their chests,

that there is nothing they can do,
I will write down each word carefully.

I will make nothing happen, forever.

Matthew Tuckner

Matthew Tuckner is a writer from New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at NYU and will be a PhD candidate in English/Creative Writing at University of Utah beginning in the fall. He was the winner of the 2022 Yellowwood Poetry Prize, selected by Paige Lewis, and was a finalist for the 2023 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, West Branch, The Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review, and Poetry Daily, among others.

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