H.K. Hummel



Topographical Map of January

When a man telemarks into high country,
his wife, gathering wood in the valley, senses
all the steep inclines between floor and ridge.

She blisters her hands wringing
greywater out of wash. Family makes
a body without boundary.

Worry makes a body somnolent.
To feel the extremities, sometimes
one must lose sensation,

then coax it back, coax it back.
Dry pines creak. The man pushes
hard and harder still, until he glides.

The woman breathes into her hands;
her blood swirls like snow. She draws inward,
lighting embers with her breath.

They heat and hold what space they can.
The valley funnels wind against walls
that solace and confine all at once.




East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana

June 3, 2010


The eye of the brown pelican is a lesson
on blindness.

A thick film of oil breaks light
into iridescent colors;

the pelican blinks and cannot see,
strains but cannot escape.

One bird next to another
next to another.

Crude oil wreaks everything:
Blue crabs claw the marsh grass,

roseate spoonbills sift through
still shallows.

Heavy waves roll in,
everything sullied, dark.

Wrack cast
on shores, sludge hidden

under the blue crab’s shell,
in the cells of sea oats, phytoplankton,

shrimpers. Oh, our Othello
of the marsh hay. This is our strangling.



H.K. Hummel lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes most often about the intersections of landscape and psyche.  She teaches at Belmont University and edits the literary journal Blood Orange Review.  Visit her homepage.