Alec Hershman lives in St. Louis and teaches English at St. Louis Community College.
Other poems of his can be found in recent issues of Phoebe, Harpur Palate, Salamander,
DIAGRAM, and The Sierra Nevada Review. He is currently the poetry editor at The White
Show of Hands
An envelope grew hills
from water, from the slip of the note
curled inside—that you wouldn't
open it: relentless September,
a dinner-table ransomed with light,
a few curses mumbled into carpeting,
and the good dog recalled for table-scraps,
faithful as refrigerator glow—
always the same look
on the still-wrapped vegetables,
a kind of inhibition despite
impulsive weather on a gloomy shelf,
which was kind to no one, let alone
the owners who believed it makes a difference:
how quickly you respond, how loudly
you say the name of a leaf turning on
the slow oven of a tree.
Brief illuminations in blue:
I've seen TVs perform this trick,
but never before on a whole tree.
I've seen vapor just enough
to be smug, having gathered first
a crisis afoot: a thunderhead landing
on a listener's shoulder.
It occurs to you is not a place.
But a quiet you climb acutely
to sleep. All the friction in a stairwell
coincides with a neighbor's open door,
a schism of access, a jammed reel
in the slot-machine, like waking
entire moments before the eyes do.
There is a window in the hallway
and you find you have dreamed
of the gradient where ceiling
turns floor, the hour
when to doubt footsteps over the bed
is as much an entrée to prediction
as to memory, a little storm or sea
you first saw coming in his eyes.
Still Life Without Help
I put away the knife
and so saw no dilemma in the apple,
no tears in the pears.
I washed my hands to see
glass change me
through the faucet's moveable stripe.
It was nothing with the dinner underway,
my spirit-chores suspended—
It was easy to feel inclusion,
to curtsy strangers into friends.
Or let a man take you by the gauntlet
while you bowed to the whiteness of your wrist—
your wrist against your forehead. Diplomacy
among the bodies, the great perusers
of the flesh, the ones for whom
preparations must be made:
you roll the spinach from the skillet,
tuck it alongside the steak;
you release the final seasoning
from clean fingers and think
to cut the meat then stop—
smaller and smaller pieces,
just so for the mouth—you know better
than that now—he will want to do it for himself.
Sky was the benediction of the windows.
The ones lit at twilight
neither here nor there—a bat
stole a scrap of his ear
like static passing through the radio—
the music was a blundering levity
if the other monks could hear.
News betrayed his curiosity,
the songs more so. In their variations
was modesty forgone—forgotten.
The corn grew raunchy at the stalk,
the pumpkins overripe.
He hid the transistor in his pillow,
learned to discern judgment
from footfall. He memorized
the sounds of doors.
Shame was warm
and renewed its robes.
October came and the others
rolled the pumpkins to the river,
held them under. No one knew
the lyrics and it was cold.
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