David Hernandez is a graphic designer from Long Beach, Calif. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Cream City Review, Quarterly West, Alaska Quarterly Review and Mississippi Review. His first full-length collection, A House Waiting for Music, is forthcoming early next year from Tupelo Press.
My venom for you is lethal tonight.
The moon's shaved and knobby
as your head. I've got a cup
of long needles, a burlap doll
stuffed and stitched in your likeness.
Here's a pinprick for the arrogance
you throw like confetti at gatherings.
Here's one for your disastrous laughter,
half hyena yelp, half donkey bray.
Damn your little square feet
for their toxic stench, for kicking
women where it hurts: the ticker.
There. That's for the tears
you wrung out from their eyes.
I could go on all night, skewering,
turning you into a porcupine,
but I've got another doll
with my eyes, same bad haircut,
and must reserve some needles
for a long night of self-loathing.
Three times he broke it off
and three times he navigated his body
back to his ex- ex- ex-girlfriend's
welcome mat, her face behind
the mesh screen crocheted
into puzzlement. He didn't know
what he wanted, which way
his heart pointed, a weathervane
slapped side to side by a tornado.
On the porch he stood, nullifying
last week's decision, which nullified
the previous week's decision,
and what a mysterious creature
he appeared to her then, backpedaling
the way he did between indifference
and love. "No," she said. "I'm sick of this."
If their tragedy was a comic book
he would've taken whiteout
to her dialogue bubble
and ballpointed "Yes, I forgive you,"
but history's nothing but a transcript
of our habits. The door griped
on its hinges when it closed
while another opened to a landscape
of his making: acres of ash,
black trees adorned with smoke,
the ruin that he was always
prepared to rebuild.
Mother Limping, Not Limping
Mother limping, with a wire
of pain sparking behind her knee,
with every right step-there,
not there. Mother working in the yard
regardless, working the weeds out
from the earth, heart encumbered
with other work: laundry bulging
the hamper, cabinets and tabletops
furred with dust. Mother yanking
those weeds all afternoon, her body
a machine that only knows dig
and pull, dig and pull. One wrong twist
and her leg ignites, a blue fire,
blue moaning. Mother at the hospital,
sipping anesthesia before drifting off,
before a scalpel opens a scarlet mouth
below her knee, her pulse scribbling
neon grass across a heart monitor.
Mother weeks later, meeting her son
for lunch by the fountain,
underwater pennies flashing
their coppery light. Mother
rolling up her pant leg to unveil
her knee's purple signature,
scar like a notch in the ground
where something furious once grew.
A man collapses in the snow.
Hours later he awakens, bewildered,
the corners of his face-nosetip
and cheekbones-blackened by frostbite.
Hypothermia bends the compass needle
in his brain as a rescue team emerges
from the white haze-No,
five trees with their backs turned
against the blizzard. Before death
swallows his heart like a cherry,
a chopper arrives. After the airlift,
the scrolling credits, I turn off the TV
and take a Paxil with a cup of water.
Somewhere inside my body
the first snowflake catches
on the eyelash of depression.
In fifteen minutes the snow flurry
of calm will bury him completely.
It is this moment I enjoy the most.
When his heartbeat almost stops.
Before he survives.
The old woman hauled her bones
here, where they hoist our cars
and tinker with their guts.
She can't sit still. Up, toward
the sun-washed window, back
to her blue chair, up again.
The air-conditioner rattles,
ball of phlegm in its throat.
Everything falls apart, needs repair.
She knits and the pink spreads
across her lap. Sweater or shawl,
time will unravel it, a moth will build
a hole there. You can even hear
her breathing coming undone,
its rusted bolts squeaking free.
Static on the intercom, then a name.
The old woman gets up, pays,
and hobbles out into the afternoon
where a mechanic curses, fixing
what cannot be fixed.