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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Hilde Weisert

The Scheme of Things
An old idea in light of recent evidence

Lacunae lace the fossil record, and coeval bones
of super- and subordinate species - the one
we'd thought replaced the other - won't line up
for the slow, steady march, where the primal
versions (short of reach, or range, or wit required
for the shifting fruit, or prey, or plight) would retire
with the resigned sigh of the marginally outclassed.
Instead, ingenious leapers coexist with their irrupted past.

So: One morning, from nowhere, an unselected self: A gait
that unrhythms you, a grasp that fills your fist
with nameless stuff. Your skull a holy dome - A new weight!
But on this plain, the claw- and-hunch will coexist
with you for ages. All aching appetite, her jaws will snap
flesh, and your fine teeth close. Even now, ontogeny recaps.

The Certainty of Others
"...The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore..."
-- Walt Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

Soon we are to leave this year, and century, a crossing
my grandmother made as a young woman - but she was brave,
hands eager on the rail, eyes brimming as a new continent
wheeled its great machine into view, the New York World
copper and a rising dome, the new shapes a skyline.

Was there no one she loved in that old wooden land,
no one to make her feel that what she left
was not behind an ocean, but below?
I fear for those who stayed, how they can go on so far
from where we rise now on the new world's turning...

And yet lower Manhattan is always lovely from the Heights:
The white choirs my father down from Dartmouth saw in '29.
As late as '68, dragging home winter grocery sacks, my roommate
caught a glimpse of the Singer and thought it was a Christmas tree on fire.
I don't remember when they took the Singer down.

It is only Brooklyn, and the lesser river, yet standing here
I feel that it is time we look across, and that this briny island
has sailed us in, the salt wind of a century on our faces.
But it is Brooklyn. I see the ferries run again, the white wakes
returning home. And behind, only a century leaving us.

The Transit Hall on Pier 86

They say there's a place in the brain for faces
and I believe it, this headache a claw
into raw nerves, the strain of testing
so many men's faces for my one "Father"

as the boat empties and the transit hall
fills with women, children, and one plausible man
after another whose face dissolves
with study. For a moment each one

could be him, ruddy, regular, a gaze returned
into my face, which has its own brain
place also working hard to make
something recognizable as a daughter

out of so many raw nerves. The looking and the looked-at
swim - these places in the brain are wet, gelid,
something out of Coelenterata that starts to wave
at this handsome new father until his hard

square eyes break my floundering smile
into one more mistake. A decade is long
when you are twenty. The long hall rings
with "Hello's!", feet on pavement, the clamoring

embrace. When I see him, I am alone,
and at his eyes, drop my own, ashamed
I tried so many strangers on, itinerants against
the one face that goes here, and whose eyes

I could have lost when they are the same
as mine. Mine that I work to raise, bringing up
a woman's face out of a child's, and offering my father
a hand, dry and outstretched.

Three Stars

In Paris together after twenty years, we walk half the map by one,
Porte Maillot down a zig-and-zag diagonal to our old Cafe Verdun.
We walk, and the Plan's red-and-black lines block-by-block unflatten
into real-life streets, the smell of bread, and children wearing hats;
ancient echoing courtyards and the earthy exhalations of the Metro stations.
We walk alike, with ease, but talk like strangers stumbling through translation.
Still, I'm restored, quenched by northern light like water,
alive and on foot in Paris, remembering, zig by zag, what it was to be your daughter

long ago. When you brought us here, your little woolen family in the gloom,
the grit of war on walls, Europe was as strange as Asia, and yet made for us.
You weren't much of a father, Father, but I eat Verdun's carrot-leek potage
and the gritty long-lost warmth salves everything. How we made this home,
and then could leave, and how you shook your fist (You'd paid for us!)
is beyond me, mon pere. Quand-meme! I give your page three stars: Vaut le voyage.