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A native Vermonter, Maria Hummel has won many awards for her poetry and fiction, including a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, Bread Loaf Fellowship, Randall Jarrell Fellowship, and Academy of American Poets Prize. She has published a novel, Wilderness Run (St. Martin's); a chapbook, City of the Moon (Harperprints); and poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in The Georgia Review, New England Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, and Los Angeles Magazine, among others. She is a freelance writer and editor for The Museum of Contemporary Art and lives in San Francisco.

Maria's blog
Where to order City of the Moon


Three Poems:

Theory of the Wrists

History says Christ got nailed
low through the wrists,
but most art depicts his hands
bleeding. The hand has a place
for a nail, a hollow of sky above blue
branches. The wrist is on-the-way,
the wrist is a shopping street at night,
threaded with dark displays,
markdowns, blue light.
Even the heart could hold a nail
better than this. A heart could
burst. The wrist can only part
around such an intrusion,
shred itself to bits.
No wonder the artists went
back to hands. They couldn’t
bear the ugliness
of hanging a man by his own
futility until it kills him.

[First published in Pleiades]



Once you understand the lost situation of the leaf
dragged on a slow stream, snagged by the hooks of roots
unknitting from the bank, and that the limit to the sky is a rough
red earth, and the limit to earth is its own rising; once you

understand that the lifting wind lifts the thorns easier
than the fruit, fells the fruit to the dark sob of ground
beyond the reach of bird or hand; once you build your white
house on the highest hill, only to find this makes it closer

to storms and the ghosts of others who failed this land;
once you understand why the glass breaks in the dishpan,
shaving a flap of skin above your thumb, so the suds bloom
rare as trillium in a deep forest where no one has been; once

you stop looking for ways the glass should not break, thorns
should not prick, the house not shudder against the wind,
then the bright shards will fall like rain that comes too late
to save the garden, then the black thread will stitch your skin

back to rags stretched over a loom of bones, and when the yard
blooms its flat offering of violet and clover, you can
cut them down without fearing they are your own heart
shorn to the root. You can wander out on the battered

streets at night, alone as a god, listening to the stopped
hiss of hydrants and alleys choked with weeds, missing
who you were when you believed in a world of consequence
and white houses, when you needed to be told you mattered.

[First published in City of the Moon (Harperprints)]


We have a prison for every offender:
stone-throwers, wine-snitchers,
nail-biters, and freeloading
riders of the train,

each barred niche
carved into this giant planet
spinning through space,

the prison of prisons, where even the guards
are caged, their keys sagging
from their belts like extra testicles,
their crimes the kind of secrets
everybody knows, like who stole
the truth from the books we read,
and how is it the hungry and filthy
can never get fed and clean.

We have sad holidays
where everyone wishes he was outside,
each guessing what outside
really means—someplace where
our families are not ourselves,
slumped around tables, eating lumps
of bread, telling the same stories
about a silken memory worn so thin
it rips as soon as the ears
hear it, and we spend all
next year trying to patch it
back together.

                        On the other,
less precious days,
we fall in love with locks;
men try to screw the holes,
women to seduce
the brass pins loose.

Kiss the cold cheek of a wall
some day, and you’ll see
what I mean about captivity.

The stars wink at us,
jangle away down hallways
we cannot follow, where there must be
rooms with gravy potatoes
and television screens.

Some of us have learned
the trick of holding mirrors
outside the bars to glimpse what’s approaching.

I like to imagine how that looks
from the corridor, to the eyes
of the all-powerful strolling through our midst:

beads of silver
flashing from the darkness,
a necklace unstrung to infinity.
If we could finally figure out
how to make a circle, a loop, a clasp,
we could find a soft, inviting neck
and strangle it.

[First published in New England Review]



Maria Hummel
San Francisco, CA
Email Maria

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These poems are copyrighted by the above listed author.  POETRY MOUNTAIN has been granted non-exclusive online publishing rights by the author to place these poems on the pages of this Web site.  All other rights belong to the author.  According to U.S. copyright law, you must obtain written permission from an author to reproduce his or her work.  We have provided email links to help facilitate this contact.

Last Updated: Thu, September 21, 2006
©2006 John Struloeff -- All Rights Reserved.