On a Sally Mann Photograph of Her Dead Dog's Toenail

by Terri Brown-Davidson

The toenail unblunted.
Phosphorous. Calcium.
A yellowing piece of arcana
embedded with paling detritus.
Flecks of the narrative trajectory
Sally Mann's greyhound
sniffed and tracked and trailed
in this primal-brained, rapturous life.
A sepia photo. The toenail captured—
as if alla prima—in a solo shot singed
with dark tones of abandonment,
body devouring body
in a perpetual, sharp-toothed maw
of mortality, cell defeating cell,
the voluptuous entity Matter
dispersing itself, replenishing,
the toenail some final phoenix
ascended from lush gray Shadow.

Terri Brown-Davidson works as a private writing coach and teaches creative writing at the University of New Mexico. Her first book of poetry, THE CARRINGTON MONOLOGUES, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She's received eleven Pushcart nominations for her poetry and fiction as well as the AWP Intro Award and a Yaddo fellowship.