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ALWAYS DANGER
Winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry

Always Danger blends a sense of menace, of ever-present harm, with an almost painterly devotion to the images central to these poems. As good books often are, this is a book of obsessions: everyone here is hurt or maimed, has lost or is losing. We're presented a world few would choose to live in, though many inhabit, without choice. To the extent that Hernandez is interested in offering redemption, it comes almost solely from the poet's attention to and veneration of detail, from an imagination blessed with animate language. Hernandez's achievement is the double witnessing of violence and beauty, the one unavoidable and the other, by the end, earned.” —Bob Hicok

“These poems—as urgent, fragile, wily as they are—go beyond the merely personal into the great world. Hernandez's patient, generous eye is on family and stranger, the wounded and the lost, the rich life of the city, its parking lots and freeways, sad yards and heavy metal. Finally, a poet who is not the center of his universe! And it's never simple, the dark joy that comes of such fierce attention.” —Marianne Boruch

“Fierce and swift and crisp, David Hernandez’s poems drill their way into the real and always find something alive and surprising there. There’s plenty of cleverness here, but what is special about these poems is an unusual quality of determination. Hernandez’s imagination goes at the world in attack-mode; not to show off, but to discover its human depths.—Tony Hoagland

 

The Taxicab Incident

A boy runs into a busy street,
a boy who happens to be my father.
Yes he’s careless and yes here comes
the taxicab. This happened
in Bogotá, Colombia. And this:

a boy falls, a boy who happens
to be my father, fallen before
the taxicab. You know what
happens next: my existence
spoils the drama. How the taxicab

glides over my father and skims
his shoulder blades. He stands
unscathed and brushes the dust off
his clothes and continues to breathe.
Fallen differently, I’m not here.

Fallen the way he did, I am.
When the boy who happens to be
my father runs into a busy street,
I’m in the backseat of that taxicab
with my brother and sister.

The three of us, we’re outlined.
Our skin is translucent as cellophane.
When we begin to scream
nothing but nothing leaps
from the zeros of our mouths.

Such is how the future lives
without influencing the world.
And my mother? She’s the girl
hundreds of miles south, blowing
air into a plastic ring skinned

with water and soap. The flimsy
bubbles lift. Whether they are
pushed into a wall, the spikes
of branches, or the sky’s blue field,
it is up to the wind.

 

Bully

As a toddler he turned thirty-seven
ants into thirty-seven asterisks
by pinching. During his teens
he pummeled the school mascot
and had the linebackers fleeing
whenever his shadow gouged
the earth. He did other things
to the mascot I won’t mention
but will point out the linebackers
flinched at the sound of a sharpener
chewing a pencil into a stake.
On his fortieth birthday he picked
a fight with a mountain and laid
the mountain flat. Don’t ask me
how he did this or how he took fists
to the ocean and bruised its waves
or the night he stopped the slow orbit
of the moon with a headlock—
cruelty has nothing to do with logic.
He should’ve died sooner but
shoved Death so hard to the floor
Death spent an afternoon snapping
his bones back in place. Dying
was to be on his terms and when
he finally perished he pushed
his way into heaven and called God
Sissy and Chump and newer insults
like Helium Head and Asparagus Dick
until He handed over the keys
to the universe. At last on a night
the stars quivered he had the sacred
quill and inkwell to scratch down
the new rules for living on this planet
which to no one’s amazement
we are obeying faithfully.

 

 

 

 

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