By accident, mid-aisle, my heel
pressed against the paw of the service dog,
a bony softness as I
pivoted from one student desk to the next.
The black Labrador yelped
and something broke in me. No,
was broken already and snapped again.
No, was made whole
by memory: from modeling clay
I made a hollow ball,
pushed a toothpick inside, then
thumbed smooth the pinhole: hidden.
Here, I told my brother. Squeeze this.
Two students gasped.
One barred her fallen
open mouth with fingers.
The dog turned
away from me and curled beneath a desk
as if accustomed to hurt, the way his lowered tail
slowly swept the floor.
dotted the linoleum from living room to kitchen.
I made that constellation.
What Nietzsche said of human ache:
To live is to suffer, to survive is
to find some meaning in the suffering.
I forget and remember, it comes and lingers,
sliver of wood into
my brother’s shivering hand, his breaths
heavy, through the nose,
erratic, how it
lingers. And how my father
tended to the wound
at the sink, the faucet hissing
out water. And the way
my mother looked at me, her
How could you?
Beside my blind student I knelt, disclosed
what had occurred, that animal sound
he heard and turned to face,
his damaged eyes lifted
as if to see past
all seven floors honeycombed above us—and further
away, what is
beyond seeing, that first shattering
each visible thing carries
Copyright © David Hernandez
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.