Henry Finch’s poetry appears in The North American Review, The Sugar House Review, The Massachusetts Review, jubilat, The Seattle Review, Prelude, Forklift Ohio, Transom, The Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Appalachian State University. He lives in Vermont, US, where he is currently translating a collection of stories by Urmuz.
The Bear and the Hammer
The bear was eating garbage on the steps of my apartment when I came home from the
corner store. “You again,” I said. “You look just like a bear when you’re thinking,” the
bear said. But it was not a real bear. This was not even my home. “This is a dream. You
are now a hammer,” I said. And just like that the bear was a hammer, equipped with a
worn red handle I immediately felt sorry for. What it must be like to be sledged about on
top of nails, onto objects of disdain and thrown carelessly into dark toolboxes. I raked my
face and moaned loudly. I tore my shirt open. “What ecstasy! What a feeling to be alive
and not be a hammer! I want to live and will not stand to not be held at night!” The
world grew saturated with pleasure, branches slowly drooped with the weight of luxuriant
greens, heavy whipped clouds spilled across the neighbor’s roof, and yet my own
enraptured body stood unchanged. “This is not easy for me, either,” the hammer said.
Hair of sea smoke as the evergreens cradle treetops
snapped loose after wind and freezing rain.
A nape of foxes
hunting housecats in the night.
Yours are the still eyes of the harbor
where ships rest and bounce against your lashes
anchored to the stones across the floor.
With a soul to house the hiding
below the laid planks of your tongue.
With hands that appear
like flickering candles in car windows. Your touch
as quiet as two exotic birds sleeping
in the backroom of the post office.
Yours is the voice of dew of blueberries
of lace painted with a palette knife.
Your breath of blooming irises
in an empty room. Silent as a sugar bowl
and crashing waves your heart
reveals and hides the sea
glass shards and lost oar locks.
Yours is the kiss of nesting swans.
I burst with my ear to your chest.
It is filled with splinters
and releases dust
as I lure the moths to my mouth.
The lilies shake champagne
onto the paws of a sleeping wolf,
but I decide when I am eaten.
I laugh and heads roll out of trees,
trees that tremble when I imagine them.
I step out of a crab and float through the rain
on an endless silk handkerchief.
I offer my voice, but it is locked in a cloud.
I open my jacket and feast upon the air.
And I blow out the sun.
And I am large.
As large as rain.
A bicycle passes through me.
All the milk. All we mix into
unblended light. All the know-how,
bored and horny at our best,
waiting for a chance to burn some snow.
Sum. Total. Multiply. Love me
like a blue-bellied lizard dropped into a glass of beer.
I’m a terrible kisser until it occurs to me
it isn’t working. I love you
until you invite the parade in for coffee.
I’m overstaying my welcome. I’ll just
blow away while we’re sleeping.
I was trying to get rid of it anyway.
I suggest the daffodils for breakfast, counting petals
room to room, fog erasing from the patio window
as you hammer the dampness with a hairdryer.
We make a beautiful landscape.
We make a tower and no one shows up.
You make a good argument,
but I make a better a quiche,
dancing to free jazz,
collecting clouds of the century.