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A Review of Maria Terrone's Book of Poems

by Daniela Gioseffi

The Bodies We Were Loaned
by Maria Terrone
2002; 107 pp. Wash. D.C.: The Word Works
P.O. Box 24164, Wash. D.C. 20015. Paper: $10
Reviewed by Daniela Gioseffi

Maria Terrone’s poems are well crafted and precise in their physicality as well as in their contemplative mood. The Bodies We Were Loaned is an apt title for this keen first collection, though the author has published poetry in various magazines and anthologies and in a chapbook titled Divided Again from The Edmonds Institute. Terrone is a lifelong New Yorker who graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Fordham University. Her language is carefully wrought and nicely cadenced. The reader follows her through nuances of passing moments and progressive observations. She is attuned to the moods and feelings of others and aware of her own emotional reactions portrayed in accessible language. The natural world from strawberries to comets, beets, and heart murmurs intrigues her and draws philosophical meandering from her thoughtfulness.

One of the most empathetic poems in the collection is "With These Words" —for Dalio Rotondi, about the poet’s father. It is peppered with poetic sentences from his love letters to her mother during his military service, written in army trucks that rumbled through Normandy, Poland and Czechoslovakia when he was twenty. They are given to the poet by her mother and are read as they yellow to ash having been stored for many years tied with a thin, blue satin ribbon. The poet reads through them as she contemplates her failing father, once so young, and articulate with love, now aging, unable to leave the house, sitting often in silence.

Today he still can sign his name
in over-careful script,
name of the man who made his own name,
a life, me, with his words.
These days my father’s words lag
like misaddressed mail. Sometimes they seem
like feathers floating just out of reach,
and he must travel a great distance in unknown
lands to retrieve them. He makes jokes
and simple puns, but speaks mainly in silence;
can’t leave the house alone,
but smiles in confusion at Mother,
whose hand in his takes the pulse
of their still-beating love…

Terrone has not succumbed to any solipsistic style of modish or decadent verse. She has something clear and human to say in her sensitive poems as she explores the ordinary of daily life and extraordinary of the universe with careful observation. The last poem in the collection, "In Standard Time" recreates beautifully the twilight moments of childhood in a city park, the swings singing and the exhilaration and carefree quality of youth.

….How boundless
was the sky and earth then, time
a bulging bolt of cloth we could unroll
at our own pace—the momentum
of the day carrying us playful into night,
cradling us in our sleep at noon; time
that lay easily over us like a sheet to hug one minute,
kick off the next; racing ahead or falling behind,
time that held neither loss nor gain for us,
who always woke to find our hearts
still beating inside the dewy flesh of children
the bodies we were loaned, intertwined.

World Works has produced a handsome blue book with readable typeface and an artistic photo on the cover, which captures the contemplative mood of this title poem very aptly.

Maria Terrone seems to have put a lifetime of learning about poetry into the writing of her first collection. She deserves an audience for her effort, blooming late to the published page, but not too late from the heart of the poet. This is a book of mature, womanly wisdom, and controlled craft, worth the reading.

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