A bumblebee knocked inside an elevator.
Two buzzes overlapped: the trapped insect
and the halogen tube’s citrus light.
Fear made the suits and dresses wait
in the lobby, hearts knocking in their chests.
Let’s take the stairs overlapped with I hate
anything with wings. A citrus-bloused woman
waited with her coffee and poppy seed bagel.
A man knocked on wood. The shadows
of sycamores and employees overlapped
in the courtyard, the sun a ball of citrus
sitting on the sky’s table. While waiting
for the bumblebee to knock it off,
the secretary had two memories, overlapping
like film slides: a citrus tree mobbed
with these clumsy bugs and waiting inside
a stuck elevator, a fireman’s knocking.
There her life overlapped with a stranger
wearing citrus-scented cologne, her pulse
quickening as they waited to be rescued.
Weeks later he knocked on her door,
their bodies overlapped in the bedroom.
Weeks later he left, the scent of citrus polluting
her sheets. Still she waited for his return,
for his knuckles to knock, but their lives
overlapped once. When the bumblebee
fumbled under the citrus sun, someone asked
the secretary, What are you waiting for now?
What’s left of his silver hair he wants
cut so his wife would stop calling him
Mr. Cumulus. He tells his hairstylist
how short with forefinger and thumb
centimeters apart as if showing her
a phantom pill, one of the dozen
he takes daily to keep the four channels
of his heart unclogged, blood thin,
joints without fire, the great icebergs
of ache from colliding into his body.
She turns to get her scissors and turns
again to see his head shuddering
like a dandelion in an earthquake,
the cape Velcroed to his neck going up
down up down above his crotch.
She’s thinking what you’re thinking.
He’s thinking I should be cleaning
my glasses with my handkerchief.
In the mirror he squints at her reflection,
pink cloud of face, orange smudge
of flowerpot she raises above her head
before shattering it against his skull.
True story, unless the hairstylist
who told the hairstylist who told
the hairstylist who’s now clipping
my hair lied. Or the hairstylist twice
removed loves embellishment. It’s how
every story telephoned from person
to person becomes after each telling
distorted, the way these parallel
barbershop mirrors keep repeating
each other to make a green tunnel
I can see myself walking through.
David Hernandez's first book of poems, A House Waiting for Music, was published by Tupelo Press in 2003. His second collection, Always Danger, won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in March 2006. His poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, The Southern Review, Epoch, Iowa Review, and are forthcoming in FIELD and Pleiades. His drawings have also appeared in literary magazines, including a feature in Indiana Review. A recipient of a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, his chapbook collections include Man Climbs Out of Manhole and Donating the Heart. David lives in Long Beach, California and is married to writer Lisa Glatt.