Elegy for Terri Marie Brooks

Howl: Copper Mountain College literary journal, Winter 2016

Elegy for Terri Marie Brooks

(killed, at 26, in a car crash on January 14, 2015.)


A quick look,

maybe eyes in a squint,

your final seconds we’ll never know –

on the morning you were torn from the world

at the corner of 62 and Utah Trail. 


As a native daughter of the valley,

The Hi-Desert Star devoted to you four hundred words

and that’s how I learned of your story.

The picture they ran:

brown hair, long to the shoulders,

eyeglasses black of rim,

bundled up on some excursion

while flanked by your family,

a shy,

easy smile.


You were smart and driven,

armed with a hard-earned degree in nursing.

A devoted mom with quirky tastes,

as a fan of both Marilyn Monroe and the Dallas Cowboys.

And the universe spun its unpredictable magic

when you fell in love

with a Marine.


He had sandy locks and an accent laced of the Carolinas,

a world of greenery and old tradition,

so different from this wild place of cholla and dust.

I imagine you entered the union

with a fierce and total love,

open to the burdens of a military wife,

its restlessness, its boredom,

and a periphery mined of tortuous unknowns.

The nights can be so sleepless,

the minutes seem to hover and mock.

But what were the chances of meeting him?

(His sister described you as the miracle of her brother’s life).  

It seemed that fate could only protect.


Your circle grew:

bringing two kids into the marriage,

a daughter followed,

then another daughter – lost at one month old.

It was a blow that could crush, even destroy.

But for you, it did neither,

as we discover the comfort of simple acts:

on her birthday, a display of balloons –

one for each year that she would have lived.


In the accident’s wake,

your husband pleaded with the public

to remember you only as joyful,

but the crazed animal of internet commentary

would not heed his call.

Online, the grief exploded.

The readers damned the location in rage,

– the bad signage and a lack of traffic lights –

thanking God that your kids survived.

Passing around stories of Route 62,

a scrapbook of inveterate mishap,

this long gray ribbon, littered with deaths.


Out of the carnage of untold numbers,

you emerged a symbol of grotesque neglect.

But calls for action tend to fade,

like the tail of sound off a clangoring bell,

 as we imagine government at its worst:

the city planners pore dumbly over maps and statistics,

the experts weigh in with suggestions ignored

and the politicians shrug, then lecture on cost. 


And who am I? Who am I to speak of you?

A stranger, a newcomer lost in the orbit of your hometown,

barely able to find an ATM or the nearest beer.

I haven’t earned the right to wallow in the void of your loss.


But your story –

your story, it took hold

as it glows off the screen,

pouring out toward the vast black mountains,  

where the clouds roll soundless

and lightning flashes.