:: Article

Two Poems

By Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick.

Delayed Underground, I Think Of Whales, Your Time In The Institution

There’s a way things bend
toward themselves, bulbs,

Light, kind—wicked
anger-beauty willed

to live, despite darkness—
how it wants you to breathe,

But caged, scared
you’ll never get back

To not-being-there. It’s true,
I want to, but kill me. Keep me

talking. I’m trapped in a tunnel
Near Times Square—Someone said, God,

If I died underground, I’d be grateful—
Let the day go on above me—

Isn’t this how I live. Isn’t it funny—
I hope you get my letter. I wrote

About the tunnels in Hudson—
About the whale-bulbs, carcasses

Underneath concrete—keep me
In the loop

About your insanity—
is it that I hear you. Is it that.

I feel like curling myself
Around you. There’s a man

On the train, talking
into his hand, is he praying.

I hear myself in circles, tunneling
Through chaos—words, bodies delivered


He’d Say, THAT, Pointing To The Sun

I used to work in the stalls. And I liked it. I liked the smell of sawdust.
Some say it burns the nose so bad, you know, the urine. The piss.

When I was a girl, I thought it smelled like apple juice gone bad. Didn’t mind it.

Just shovel. Concentrate on the ground, he’d say.

And yeah, it would stir up dust. Coughing and sneezing, listening to the breath of the horses.

Someone said, once, I think it was in a dream, that we should go down to the dust.
Or we will.

Move your arms, back, he’d say, sweating,
in a good way.

No one could find us here.

You can talk to horses, he’d say

I mean, they don’t talk back, but sometimes they do. Not in words, not really.

He said, More like a feeling.

And if anything can teach you how to think, it’s horses.

So I’d work, cleaning stalls.
Stir up dust. Sneeze.

I’d say the same thing, I’d say, Seven times a day do I praise thee,
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night.

Seven times a day. That’s a lot.
And I’d be in there all evening. Till the sun went down.

Light has a way through sawdust.
I miss that light, he said
In the city there isn’t that kind of light. Not orange.

Then the movement of him.
I used to work in the stalls until the movement came. I can’t explain it.

Before the watches of the night, that’s what I’d say.
And he came.
Do I praise thee, I’d say.

My eyes are awake.
That’s ok.

Barn owls. Barn owls eyes are awake. Watching the night.

He’d come. Sawdust everywhere.
In our hair, jeans, boots.

Just a kid.

I’d be moving my hands.

Concentrate on the ground, he said.

Burn in the nose, yeah the smell burned.
But I liked it. Liked telling myself he’d come.

First I was afraid. Light bends that way, in the evening.

Stirring up dust so you can’t see edges.

Stalls have bars. I’d look through, pretend, keep me safe.

Stand still, I’d say

Couldn’t make out if that was hooves moving or him.

Seven times a day, I’d say. Seven times a day, I praise thee.

He’d give me some money. He’d say, Come back tomorrow.

Run home. Into the orange light.

All things can turn into that, he’d say. Into that.

And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, THAT, pointing to the sun.

See this dust? he’d say, You gotta get through the dust to that.

Then he’d move his hands over the horses’ back, and I mean, I was a kid but,
I don’t know.
Something about it.
Something about wanting to be that, and feel that.


Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick is a native Texan and recent graduate from the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program. She previously worked as a Title Agent, researching wills and other documents in dusty courthouses across Texas. Now, she’s finding inspiration by wandering NYC, shooting photography, and writing strangers’ conversations in her notebook. Shannon recently completed her first manuscript of essays and poetry. She lives and writes in New York.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, November 11th, 2010.