Pia Aliperti    


The Past Is Still Anticipated


Facts about Mary Anning:

When Mary is twelve, she does her sewing sloppily,
she doesn’t brush her hair, and she digs
an ichthyosaurus out of the ocean.

When Mary’s eyes wander, they find
dorsal fins of extinct sharks.

When Mary comes across a beach body
half-drowned, she replaces the seaweed in her hair with seaflowers.
Father deceased. Mother worn away, brother apprenticed.
And the full sea.

Mary can pinch a skeleton out of a vertical cliff with a hammer.
Sometimes it takes 10 years.

Mary’s neighbors think a flying serpent ravishes
their blackberry patches and may also have the power to destroy
teenagers and twentysomethings.

Ammonite (snakestone): good
for preventing snake bite, for impotence,
and, if placed under your pillow, insomnia.

The ichthyosaurus is as tall as a steeple.
It has kickers like a dolphin, the jaw of a crocodile, spine of a fish.

The name means “fish lizard,” though it is neither
fish nor lizard. The stories only look like fables.
There the monsters are:
with beaks like the bill of a woodcock,
scaly armor of an iguana, flexible finger bones of a bat,
fins like wings, head like
a pair of scissors.

(What rules the world? The stomach.)

Mary’s name is often omitted. Mary’s name is
often replaced by a pronoun. A unique fossil
analogous to nothing.

Mary complains that the information she receives
from stodgy professors is “one-half intelligible.”

Mary is sometimes accused of forgery.
George Cumberland once came to Mary “Hanning’s” defense.
He spelled her name
the way the locals pronounce it.

In her spare time, Mary reads Lord Byron.
She paints prehistoric beasts with the ink found inside
other prehistoric beasts. Fish with straight teeth.
Fish with crooked teeth.

The controversial hypothesis about “In the beginning”—
beginning could express an undefined period of time.

Each year the leading rivals of the day
dine in the unfinished hollow of the iguanodon skeleton.
Pass the wine and count the bones.

Mary has never been inside a museum. Mary’s angry name is WOMAN.
In 1835, Mary loses her life
savings—more than £300.

Mary asks, What is the matter of me?
I stand still, she says, and the world flows by me in a stream

A distant blue still blueing.

The small bathroom holds
a small view of water
I might have closed.

Have you noticed that I give myself to you
pieces, never in, never
out of body, dismantled?

Two hands are all I know
and in bathwater
ascends a toe





Notes Toward a Supreme Dish


Reached into the wrong way again.
Ate second egg out of winter coat pocket.

Cancelled when should have cut
with an accident-sized kitchen knife.

Memorized most bowls. Forgot bright orange
like the recipe had warned against lovers.
Realized had forgotten the night before so could (forget celery).

Back at home, put six eggs in a pot and got that right at least.
Began adding other ingredients from internet.

Thought might have added too much bedroom and Googled “roaring boil.”
Also “spicy mustard.”

Ate Miracle on the stove.
Wondered if everyone eventually regrets shaved-leg decision.

Shell scraps under fingernail,
they could be peeled away like this
the skin of an island or an intricate clementine.
Went back into teaspoons. Kept sneaking back
into kitchen to stare at pot.


Pia Aliperti is an editor and teacher based in the Inwood neighborhood of NYC. Her poems appear in Valley Voices, Rattle, and The Best American Poetry blog, among other spaces. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and of The New School's MFA program. You can read excerpts of her erasure of the novel Jane Eyre online at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Luna Luna, and the Augury Books blog.