Stain


By Dominic Scopa

Let’s start with this coffee I just spilled,
stain spreading, steadfast as the walnut floorboards
that must still swell with moisture
in the room my family swarmed for dinner as a boy,
window shades filtering the adamant,
decaying sun of summer evenings.
I focus all attention on the earthy, robust smell,
that seems darker than the coffee,
and I refuse to recognize the way something dark,
           and completely simple,
like this now half-cup of coffee, trembles,
then stills a second as I hold it,
and stare into it a long time,
until I am remembering that man⎯
how heavy he was the morning
he dropped from the South Tower
and that house where I watched him on the television,
ten years old, with a certain sense, bewildering
and paralyzing as the takeoff of a plane is to a toddler.
And despite a looking back
that said goodbye before I could say anything,
and his deep breath, his wave,
he still turned carefully away, forever,
scrutinized the skyline, face tilted upward
as if supported by the feeble sunrays
girdering through the smoke,
                                     and stepped off.
Like light he desired darkness.
Sometimes, when I try to imagine myself as that man,
I feel released for seconds,
and if that release persists, terrified.
And to be honest, as a child, I was terrified of everything:
clowns, report cards, the filthy fingers of a family friend all over me.
But that other fear is different.
Even so, I thought I could forget that man
cascading through the chaos⎯determined, free
and whether or not his fall was soothing.
Bathed in the television’s tide of light, I sat,  
a moth fixed to the flame of what it wanted,
and watched as the camera trembled,
            going out of focus…
Then came a reporter, sweat glistening her forehead
as she talked, calm as habit,
the microphone shaking in her hands.
And all the youth I felt,
whatever left me in my nervous laugh,
did not return in the deep breath I drew in,
             slowly, a second later,
the first breath of a young man.
And who knows where that boy went,
too numb to speak about what he thought
was only someone’s cowardly surrender.
But maybe, after all, he’s here,
in this coffee stain on the carpet
its shape not a body flattened on concrete,
but only the random result of gravity,
a blind design with a silence and force
that transforms everything.


Domenic Scopa is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His first book, Walk-in Closet (Yellow Chair Press), is forthcoming in 2017.