Robert Herschbach

Audition

Busy fingers, breath in a tube—
the judges watched her
the way one watches half a rainbow:

not an uncommon sight. On the assessment sheet
they wrote kindly

of her precision, as though she’d shown them
a glazed bird figurine, skillfully painted,
with realistic tail feathers.

 

A Visit to the Falls

No one claps for a river, no one cheers on
its feats: bravo, river, well-played.
The carving of a gorge, the rearrangement
of landscape, all that flung granite—

what if gods or giants
were involved, a willfulness resembling
our own? They might have use for applause,
or appreciate being written up in an epic:
and so it was that Potomac grew angry
at the flight of his children, and came
blustering down from the Appalachian
hills, bent on retribution…

You could almost believe a wild purpose
tore up the earth. As charred
as some of these rocks are,
the way the formations tilt, seeming to recoil
as though from gigantic blows,
the way those boulders look hacked,
slashed down the middle, water gushing
as though from multiple wounds—

you could almost believe something here
knows how to suffer.

 

Time of Day

Guy in the Seminoles cap
next seat over keeps trying
to make small talk with Angie
behind the counter: he’s another task
she has to juggle, between ringing up
the waffles and omelets. Too many people
back there and not nearly enough space:
waitresses move sideways at high speed,
barely clearing the cook as he spoons
cheese sauce onto a steak. No,
she doesn’t need Seminoles asking her
about her weekend, leaning forward
on the swivel stool, the texture of his face
like a moon surface, cratered and pocked,
but he’s going to keep at it, Angie,
Angie, until she stops to listen to his
joke. We haven’t even swept together,
said the groom broom, ha ha! I knew
you’d like that one, Angie. Groom broom.
Now he turns to me, companionable,
grinning like a child, holding up his shining
spotless plate (not a single bacon bit),
so I’ll understand grub here’s the best
this side of Tallahassee, better than any
in Destin, Pensacola or Navarre. Amen!
And though I only nod at him and resume
eye contact with my coffee, he goes on
telling it to my left ear. You’re not busy,
he seems to be saying. You can hear me out,
brother. You can give me the time of day.

Author Portrait

Robert Herschbach is a writer, editor, and teacher who lives and works in Laurel, Maryland. He is the author of a full-length collection of poetry, Loose Weather, which received the 2013 Jean Feldman Poetry Award from the Washington Writers Publishing House, and a chapbook, A Lost Empire (Ion Books, 1994). His poems have appeared in journals such as Fugue, Gargoyle, Quarterly West, Southern Poetry Review, and The Louisville Review. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and received a PhD from the University of New Hampshire with a dissertation focused on Bram Stoker's Dracula.

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