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Sample Poems by Hadley Hury

Boy on the Beach

The boy on the beach
stared out
not knowing then
the sea might someday evoke
simultaneous thoughts of
nostalgia and fear
love and death
love and loss
the certainty of beauty
the precipice of the howling void
infinity and inconsequence.

Instead there was then
a kind of comfort
a vague promise or hope
that the crowdedness in his
head was behind him
not here on this wide expanse
looking out to an unknown horizon
but back there

behind him
around the dinner table
in the classroom
on the schoolyard
in novels and at the movies
all that urgency toward definition
from without and within.

Time sloshed idly
with the foam through his toes
and the desperate competing stories
evaporated in the dusk
impossibly absurd
in the face of such openness
such benign and
blank regard.

Almost Naked

We spend our first years
learning to dress ourselves,
as in, look who put his shoes on
all by himself, or
what a big girl,
all those buttons!

After we discovered
that we couldn't judge a book by its cover,
and that everyone didn't always
mean what they said,
and that we would never,
as we once wanted, be a character in a book,
we sacrificed our innocence before
it turned out to have been
no better than our ignorance.

We still try things on:
taking time to read more cookbooks,

learning to assemble electronic devices without
existential despair and hurled instruction manuals,
trying to love the moronic neighbor down the road
with his guns and hysterical dogs,
looking back to see
not a life of losses and discards
but a fond trail of furnishings outgrown.

It's not that we may not have
the occasional embarrassment
over things that we have done
(the unaccustomed earring still on
as we crawl into bed),
and the things we have left undone
(the barn door,
as we stroll into the cocktail party),

It's just that now
some new sort of credulity beckons,
like that first Christmas morning
after we knew,
and yet had to walk on anyway,

toward the tree,

across a now grotesquely foreshortened living room,
remembering the perfectly contained skin
of our footed pajamas just a year before,
the first taste of something we'd later call
metaphor rising bitter in our mouths.

We still have our
baffled need to trust,
but more and more, we learn
to take things off,
to undress ourselves-
more disposed to meet,
almost naked,
the darkness and
the day.

I See by Your Outfit That You Are a Cowboy

Though I must have seen my father's face
in repose in some moments
when he was alive,
I'm not at all sure I remember them, and
now, if I were to come upon a photograph
of him not smiling,
I wonder how I would
recognize him, for
he went out every day to the world
that way, armed with assertive bonhomie,
humor that insisted,
an insinuating laugh.

He was needy-
not for wealth, or women, or liquor,
but, I think, for warmth. He grew up
not without a decent house
or things or money,

but nonetheless on the streets, eating at cafes
and hanging out at the gym,
or going to movies.
His father was kind
but stayed busy with work,
and his mother was cool,
curt, querulous,
her only laugh a staccato bark
corrosive with irony, and
she met any act of human kindness
by asking now why would they do that?
He and his brother were on their own.

He needed regular dinners around a table,
family talk and little league,
questions about his day at school,
and a familiar mantel
to hang a stocking in the holidays.

He gave me all that-
and nearly drove me crazy.

We were as different as father and son
could be, and I worked at it,
and I had a need to be left alone;
but as I advance in years
his impatience with sadness will
sometimes rise as a flush in my neck,
and I hear him quite distinctly in my
surprisingly corny jokes,
and feel his feet hurrying me over for
a hug with a friend, or find my brow
lifting to make a silly face at the sad child languishing
unregarded in the next line at the grocery store.

He hoped and I think he prayed
and so, I think, do I-when I dare to forget
my chill disapproval of my own hunger,
and let, as he did, daily billows of gratitude
carry us forward:
for we each found a good woman
who brought us in near the fire.

Sometimes I see us, just the two of us,

in a high unbounded desert,
and as the vast night presses us close,
the sharp commingled scent
of pinyon, dying embers, and the
feral, faintly sexual, tang of tarp
flays our senses open to the cold stars,
and he asks, without judgment,
looking out, beyond us, into blackness,
if I still have a chip on my shoulder,
and what's so hard about
actually taking the time to learn
to dive off the board correctly,
and I, looking just over his left shoulder,
ask him if he's still embarrassing himself
and everybody else by telling
for the ten thousandth time the one about
the poor lame man whose suit fits so well,
and thank him for sending me out to get
a good education and find Faulkner
and Kierkegaard and self-conscious anxiety,
and then we laugh, and make the bitter dregs
of joe swirl, and last in our tin cups

until it is time to go-
backward or forward
to where we belong.

Old Friends

Sometimes after getting together for dinner
or sometimes for no reason after a long passage of time
while pulling clothes from the dryer
or waiting at a red light
or brushing my teeth and glancing in the mirror

I see one of you
right there
in place of whatever is there

the angle of your chin in laughter
a certain sideways glance
some particular syllable of speech

right there
closer and sharper
than whatever is at hand

you are there
perhaps in your most recent incarnation

but often and every bit as vividly

on one of those days forty years ago
looking up across a table
or walking side by side in the mist
of a March afternoon.

We move on through time and place
called both to exotic adventures
and to be familiarly found
like the scent of daffodils
such richness never new
the scent of forever
always so surprising.