White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
Alec Hershman
Alec Hershman lives in St. Louis where he teaches at Florissant Valley College and at the Center for Humanities at Washington University. Other poems can be found in Harpur Palate, Salamander, and DIAGRAM.

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Alec Hershman


-after Clark



“Years were things.”

—Michael Palmer



1985: Amniotic Translation


The remnant begins: Woke this morning to the Mr. Coffee spitting hard water. From the window the click of the stick-curtain and the delicate neck of the excavator. On the way to the hospital a man was selling candled eggs.

Alec Hershman



The high-chair is a light-house.

The boats in the harbor, fat and happy.


No one recognizes yet

the silver levitation

over ripening floes—

we believe in the lanyard

and my father’s fluid affections.


The cleft palate never cleft

it never closed.

Alec Hershman



Monotony dots.


When you leave, he says —it won’t be the voice

you came with.


My father

in the rear-view mirror,

the highway advancing on his hairline.

Alec Hershman



Crickets host a floating crib.


Through cloud-break

the muzzy animals

leave their mobile,

call to follow—

their trailing manes

The sky, they say

is singing.


Thus begins my canter.


Alec Hershman



The little pitcher runs his lip. In the new community

no fences.


Adults occur to me as windows do. Then turn off

Every light in the house.


Count to three, never four.

I am a troubled child.


Alec Hershman



Water stains make faces

in the drywall the slight drum of a nail.


A pool cue introduced to sliding glass a starfish, fixed.


Through the basement, the pond in shallows.


Some years are only knees.

Some of the gulls come unglued.

Alec Hershman



To whistle brings a string of bees.

Boys are older boys.


A pelt means you keep it.


My little red pounds for blocks.

Alec Hershman



In the kitchen sisters come and come,

a compress to cool the wilted one

who balloons, who balloons.


Kelp matted to rock, the honey-brown hanks

wed a forehead.

                          And all night the there theres

Of the sisters,

chuckling like doves.

Alec Hershman



—go the dead to their water-table,


sleeping with the bronchials.


Glen through glen

the lake moons-up

to wipe its own perimeter.


My mother

gathers her skirts

and kneels, a staircase on water.


At the landing I’m eight.

At the landing I’m a slipper-bird,

davening in the surf.

Alec Hershman



What do you want to be was so many schoolyards blown-over

with dandelions the yellow of which.




Told to open door number three.


Sang you’ll never know dear

through the box-fan—whispery ingress.


So what it was the tiger.


Alec Hershman



Mother dowsing,

thin as kite-string.


We live nowhere near water.


In the myrtle I grass my only friend,

fugitive as a leaf.

Alec Hershman

1996: A Sales Associate Is Offering My Mother Gloves


while I’m a pocket growing hands.

Among the mannequins


cahoots are unavailable,

so I make them up.


Garments part


piece by piece, self-pebbled

by the taken things.



for the glance of a man—


through a palm-opening

the smallest gesture of my moth.

Alec Hershman



Between screen doors.


A stranger comes on graph-paper, wants to know

What’ve we got to eat?


She lets him in, to hold—


Then, his pocket ripe with eggs,

she lets him go.


Alec Hershman



At school I have trouble at home.

There are throaty boys between bells,

the delicate ears of urinals. A pause

before laughter.

                          Once, before lunch,

the dull glitter of a cop car,

the passing-period of a prince and the sound

of the door, unlockable.

Alec Hershman



Practice saying after the accident.


Where I fell: a canyon—


Where I’d land: winter: face a spray of frost,

                                              my arm erased by ice.


Alec Hershman



dart → balloon.


halogen   bug     litter

in a carnival booth.


Boys added to boys,

amass a flock of runners.


The messaging

more knee to knee

in the brief language of shorts.


Alec Hershman



            Meanwhile, the debutantes click like cue balls, press against men barely men. They bottleneck a turn-style. Hand to mouth in the economy of compliments. I play poker with the guys, up-gussied for the ones with eyes for chips.

Alec Hershman




with strategic prefix.


The limits of roommate.


I mean

                   he says,

and hangs it there.


On the door knock twice.


Alec Hershman



Let’s agree like whispers down a hallway.

Someone calls me, baby.

Someone points.




I drink from the mouth

where the river surrenders.


Even a glacier is a rolling thing.

Alec Hershman



Doubt is the space between versions.


Concentric blues: swimming pool, lake.


Leg of salt.

Leg of haste.


How we got there,

gas light blushing on the dash—

Alec Hershman



Because if you wait a little longer you won’t be hungry.


Idle boys in idle light. Candle-wax driven up by a nail,

and instead of fortune cookies we have plums—stained lozenges

of paper for pits—the one that slips between my teeth: Don’t stop listening,


we’re about to tell you what you want to hear.


Alec Hershman



            In the stop-flock of back-patters it was said: who wouldn’t trade a thought for congratulations? Hands held like ties between river scrims—the water off to nowhere, and in each of us unrolled the churlish thought of shooting down the stage-director.

Alec Hershman



Mr. Dead-in-my-tracks.

What was said prior to the kind of laughter where it doesn’t matter.


A police officer scoops me like a highway off-ramp.

To learn as much as I am taught.


The intestinal sound of thaw-water underfoot.

Alec Hershman



In the center of a post-card: the center of the sea.


In dream I wed the mountain.




The rock upon rock of our talk.

Alec Hershman



Where I thought they’d follow

the circuits weren’t.


Parks and departures.


Where I asked and

“For a cue!” he replied.


Too fast.


Expectation was a wall

where the door should be.

Alec Hershman



Some things stay: a zipper

at my ankle.


The man

was heavily inscribed

himself—his skin was litmus

who put with me

what I paid him to put:


the part that goes missing—


the part that can’t be taken off—









Copyright © Alec Hershman. White Whale Review, issue 2.3

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