The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Matthew Tuckner

Near the end of his life, the artist painted six coffinsegg-shell white, filling them with the cadaversof diseased sea stars found in tidepoolsalong the coast of San Luis Obispo.When we enter the gallery, you spill the contentsof your tote bag into a metal tray: camera lens, pill organizer,a fragment of orange rind shaped like Florida,a bottle of smartwater, dyed gold with powdered electrolytes.We know what’s coming. We’ve been texting back and forthfamous last words as a way of making light of it,a record of the mind speaking to the mind in dulcet tones,reminding the mind it is still here, for now.Heraclitus: Can you turn wet water into dry?Caligula: I am still very much alive.It appears that what will happen, hasn’t happened yet.So we fill the time with projects, Tokyo, memoriesof its greedy koi fish, a ceramic bowlof goji berries perfectly balanced on a tree branch.We fatten the time until it bursts into artifacts:sixteen photographs of a single puddletaking shape in the red glow of your darkroom.A puddle you glimpsed the moon in, & stopped for.A puddle that was just plain rain until it fell.

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Matthew Tuckner is a writer from New York. He is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at NYU where he was Poetry Editor of Washington Square Review and taught in the Undergraduate Writing Program. 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, Pleiades, West Branch, The Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review, and Bennington Review, among others.


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The Adroit Journal was founded in November 2010 by poet Peter LaBerge. At its foundation, the journal has its eyes focused ahead, seeking to showcase what its global staff of emerging writers sees as the future of poetry, prose, and art.

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