Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Landscape with Frisbee and Dam Breaking



You cannot see it, but you can

hear the rumbling coming from
behind a line of sugar maples. You can see

a man in a ballcap about to

toss a yellow disc toward his son
forty yards out. How small he is

at that distance. And the father too

when you see the trees shudder
and like a scroll the water rolls up the land.

Witnesses to disasters always say

it happened so fast.
It happens now—

dogs barking and people screaming

oh my God and God no
and the eye of the disc

floats by as cars rise then twist

in the torrent and later, minutes
really, a house glides past—

just the roof visible—the rest

hidden under the muddy water.
But you see that also, don’t you?

The swirling ruin in every room.

And hear the world whisper
close to your ear—

All of this was mine to begin with.




Landscape with Pumpjacks Overtaken by Vines



Never would I have known
those are pumpjacks
had it not been for the title—
the vegetation’s overtaking
is that complete. How it
shags the machinery
into the abstract.
All is predominantly green.
Even the sky has this
viridian cast to it, as if
vines can climb the atmosphere.
The question I continue
returning to is this—
When does apocalyptic
become postapocalyptic?
My guess is when
most of us are gone
and the earth again
flourishes. It is strangely
cheerful, this painting—
with a composition
dependent on
these three kids
posing on the righthand side,
wearing what appears to be
black hazmat suits.
Posing or dancing.
Dancing or dramatizing
their own deaths,
the way we used to do
at that age. Their energy
leaps off the canvas—
wouldn’t you agree?
The dynamism of
their bodies. Sheer pleasure,
despite the world
given to them. Notwithstanding
the hazardous air.
I’m going with
dancing—which mimics
flying, which gives our minds
the sky it needs
to forget what’s coming.



Landscape with Pink Tulips Distorted by Dread



A field of flamingo necks tangled and stretched.
A field of giant worms.

And the real worms
blindly squiggling through the earth’s darkness.

And the icy brains of clouds
melting in the sky. Their reflections too
on a little blue stream’s
twice-rippled surface.

Look there, beside the stream, that boy
or girl
altered into an ampersand—
the way the land curls into the body, the body
into the land.

You wonder what that seated child is thinking
when terror comes rushing back,
comes with its dirge, its relentless static
pin-prickling your skin.

Far off
a windmill rotates its crooked white ladders.

How the wind discomforts you.




Landscape with Doctor Taking a Breather



On a green hill she sits, still
wearing a paper gown. A meadow
before her, the asterisks of daisies,
a wooden fence tapering as it
extends toward the horizon,
a palomino in the distance
facing her, the sideswept
white mane letting us know
there’s wind in that moment.
She must feel it against her face,
her unmasked face, and it must
feel good—that cool nothing
washing over her.


David Hernandez’s new collection of poems, Hello I Must Be Going, is forthcoming next year from the Pitt Poetry Series.

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