Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 3
Spring 2011

[Four Poems]

Donna Hilbert


From a sidewalk bench 
I watch N shrink 
then vanish down
Ben Yehuda Street,
looking for the pharmacy
he remembers.
We’ve walked so far in heat
my feet won’t face another step.
The first half-hour or two
I’m happy for the rest.
But, when the sun declines
and the third man
comes on to me in Hebrew
then in English, I realize 
I’m taken for a hooker
and my heart begins to race.
I grow certain that N
is maimed or dead.
Why else would he leave me here so long?
Jet-lagged and dazed, I’m sure
he’s crossed against the red
and into traffic.
How long to wait before I flag police?
To feel light and free,
I’d left my stuff behind:
passport, camera, phone;
no shekels in my pocket,
just a key to the apartment 
on a street whose name I can’t recall
or if remembered
could not pronounce or find.
He comes back whole,
waving his arms in explanation.
I’m not angry or impressed,
lost now in my own story:
orphan girl, crumbs in her pocket,
living by wit alone in a strange
engrossing land.

—Previously published in Re)Verb)


The Angel Garmin

Long have I wished for a calm voice 
pointing me home,
a confident voice telling which fork
in the forest road,
leads to the soup, the bread, 
the welcoming bed,
and which to dead-end
doom instead.
One night I circled a flat Texas town
for hours in my rented Ford
searching for the Hampton Inn 
I’d left in daylight before 
the unpredicted storm blew down.
The water rose; the gas gauge fell.
I surely had fore-tasted hell
lost in the unfamiliar, flooded town.
Now, the Angel Garmin takes
me through the four-level interchange,
over cloverleaf and roundabout,
keep left, exit, turn right,
she tells me. Perfect
mother, gaurdian, guide 
all knowing, but flexible, kind,
never scolding when I fail
to turn as I am told,
she simply recalculates
finds me, brings me back home.



I open the garage door
and our dog bounds free
across the street, 
disappearing down the alley, 
her black form unmade 
by the moonless night.
I panic, run in circles with the leash,
but you calmly cross the street
calling her name.
Because she loves you
she lets you bring her home.
I won’t repeat the dream
in which you leave me.
Let’s just say I know the world,
how it alters in an instant,
that I awaken sick 
in remorse and dread.
I can’t face again the dinners
with other lonely women,
then late-night TV
until the dog and I can bear 
to go to bed.
I don’t need again to learn
the bitter lesson
that everything I love 
is a flame between two fingers,
no act undone, no word unsaid.

—Previously published in Beggars and Cheeseburgers



Spirit level it’s called
this rectangular frame, vial
of liquid centered in the middle.
spirit center level
Not a yoga prop 
but a mason’s tool
like the one my father used
Saturdays, Sundays, weekdays
after work laying brick
around our house in the valley
mastering geometry
turning oblong to curve.
Curve around orange tree
after tree laden
with blossom then fruit.
My father lay brick on brick 
with a cunning sure hand.
And I imagine his pleasure
as he checked this work 
and found it true, 
the one thing he could do
to make his world level
to make his world right, 
one brick after brick at a time.

—Previously published in Beggars and Cheeseburgers

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury