Duplex Beginning with a Line by Edward Hirsch

At midnight the soul dreams of a small fire,
night balmy but body shivering

in the quivering atmosphere, heat and chill.
A keenness the soul perceives as black ice

sticks and burns in dry ice’s cold clarity,
a lone lucidity—a conflagration

whose biting flare cuts through the fog it creates
in deceptive, devouring radiance.

The soul circles, perceives this fire’s bitter want,
knowing the lie but fluttering, pale winged,

on pain of immolation, knows the lie
but senses an echo of its own hunger,

a mixed resonance of fullness and bareness
which cracks at midnight in sparks from a small fire.

Line 1 taken from “Poor Angels,” in the collection For the Sleepwalkers.

Spatial Awareness

My mother taught me how to cook mushrooms.


      crowd them

she would say.

It’s quiet in the still frame of air-conditioned mid-July,
in the white-washed walls that smell like fresh paint,
in the echoed hum of five-hundred unfurnished square feet.

While you sleep on a king-sized mattress in the next room
I lay the mushrooms carefully in a pan, two inches apart
so that they do not cry
                    and become waterlogged and grey with proximity.

They sizzle to brown crisps and I wake you gingerly with coffee.
We eat on the floor in the pale light of afternoon.

I cook rice that evening. My mother tried to teach me
how to make each grain full and soft and entact,
                                but I never listened, rushing ahead to a boil and now
each grain is a broken ball of glue, burned black in the bottom of the pan
and in the next room there is a mattress and a cup of cold coffee

                                                                                           and that is all.

Only So Much

Dad calls my name 
in the chaos of unlit morning,
says, Get up. 

He is in a starched shirt and tie, shaved,
small piece of reddened tissue on his chin. 
Mom left yesterday, Sunday.  

Dad has no choice but to take me with him  
to Queens where he manufactures fruit drinks,  
liquid synthetics that burn the back of throats.  

He tells me on the train that Mom has a bad heart— 
an orange- and grape-flavored reformulation, 
a fact like new weather.  

The air outside the plant is dense 
with sweet rot and acrid chemicals; 
the ground by the door seethes: cockroaches.  

I stop, step back. Dad walks through them,  
turns, looks at me, waits. I hold up my arms— 
but on this morning we commuted 

on a double-decker train and city busses 
and arrived at Dad’s refusal 
to lift me. 

I ask once more but know 
I will do it, nearly wetting my tights.
Though I am only five, I understand.

The truth will repeat itself
with every hospital stay:
there is only so much he can do without her.


I am from a mother who always gives 
and a father who never quits. I am from grandparents 
as rooted in New Mexico as the mountains and valleys.
I am from the state of red and yellow, 
having suffered the serious soldiers 
of Spain. I am from the tribes of strength and craft, 
dignity and pride.  I am breathing quietly in the corner of the room.
I am trying to be invisible.
I am speaking softly at the party,
I am repeating myself because no one can hear me.
I am screaming on this page, praying to be heard. 

No te vayais

While the sun in its daily pilgrimage reminds the mortal of mortality, she does subtraction, linear
differences in distance, age and burdensome inhibitions. The water’s song on the shore telling —
no, singing — another story, don’t leave, keep returning to the ocean’s salted lips of that first
The horizon devouring every ray of light, turning sky to a dark curtain, the waves summoning
touch, making little flashes of desire in the mind, don’t leave. North of the equator, thirst
transforms exponentially to dream, our feet slowly moving on the sand, a small fortune of time.

Where I Place my Roots

The palm of my hand reads like a road map
the lines are dirt roads leading up to
a yellow porch dog blinking at neighbors
warding off cicadas, water dripping from
his big dog snout. I followed a crease, past
the wobbly legs of weeping willows,
to Miss Kat’s fudge brownies and
her stories of the men who lived here before us-
her skeleton shakes when she laughs.
I have reached the thumb now
I stop at a circle driveway, the only pool in the neighborhood
undisturbed and vain
like glass, like a mother doing laundry
the vent from the basement breathing out Downy
and bleach. There are tulips in the patio urn
and Japanese maples in the back
a rounded-crown leaf fitting squarely in my hand
turned a fist, folding the map
and protecting history in my pocket. 

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN