Sample Poems by Hank Hudepohl


The Sanctity of Pumpkins

Ripe gourd, God's eye of autumn
bound to earth, swelling
among the umbilical of rooted vines.
Which one are you?

A head for the scarecrow? The horseman?

The one stolen from our porch in the dark,
smashed in the street?

The one the roadside farmer sold us
with twisted stem, scar of field dirt
along the lower ribbing?

The one on my front steps, uncut,
water-logged, so bottom-heavy
that when I picked it up it spilled open?

The one we will scrape out with our hands,
pull stringy pulp, grope
the wet nest of seeds?
The one where we will carve out teeth?

The one we will light from the inside?
The one that will stare
like the eyes of my lunatic great uncle,
that hangman, haunt of death? Or just a lit pumpkin
flickering in darkness?

I could say:
There is this moment and nothing more.
I could look away from how, all season long
it gathered shape
from air, from water, from a bedding of soil,
how it came into being.

The tree knows nothing of its shadow.
The pumpkin knows nothing
of its hollowed-out self.
This evening, the cold October air
knows nothing of yellow leaves,
of migrations,
of the needles of frost
that will frock the grass come morning.



The Thrill of Catching

line-drives, short hops, stingers
off the end of the coach's fungo
slapped me out of sleep
after school, all of us rule-tired

and jumpy as baseballs
that skittered over a dirt and rock infield.
We fielded grounders
until our bodies ached from bending,

until a purfling of dusk
hemmed the field with indigo.
In that spell of dark coming on,
the bone-white skin of the ball

looked luminous as a small moon
that we batted, gloved, tossed
to one another like young gods
who had forgotten they were boys

out late again, playing a game
that must come to an end,
all of us, for the moment, connected
to the outfielder running deep

for a fly ball, following the curve
of flight with his body, seeing the final
point of thaat ghostly arc vanish
into the dark web of his glove.



Burial Ground

Beyond the gate, headstones: angular
and pale against a backdrop of leafshade,

jutting up out of uneven, mossy ground
in skewed angles, sunlit gray. Pines taller

than oaks border the fence, and inside,
brown needles fleck the graves. Chiseled

on the stones, two names: Clay and Hatfield.
My grandpa walks off to the far end

and looks up into a bewilderment of trees.
"This place has calm," he says,

one hand in his denim jacket, the other resting
on the holster of a gun. He says it almost

to himself, as if he is showing me
where to bury him. I don't answer:

I am studying the faces in the graves.