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SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

[Four Poems]

by Terry Hertzler

Why I’ll Never Understand People Who Claim to Have No Regrets

I pick her up on Central Avenue, Saturday night,
drugged out of her mind or crazy some other way. 
She’s young and beautiful, that tall, lanky look 
of models or pampered Connecticut debutantes. 

She says her Mercedes is stranded at the bottom 
of the Salt River, under water, says she had to swim 
to shore. It’s August in Phoenix, the river nothing but
dust and memories, but I take her home with me anyway. 

When she removes her dress, I see she’s pregnant, 
just beginning to show. After we have sex, she says, 
Look, we’ve made a baby, just like Mary and Joseph. 
I let her use my shower. 

Afterwards, she says she wants new clothes, something 
of mine to remember me by. I tell her all my clothes 
are dirty, that I’ve enchanted her dress, renewed it 
with magic, and she claps her hands and kisses me. 

Twenty minutes later, I drop her off at Dunkin’ Donuts, 
say I’ll park the car round back then join her. I watch her 
walk toward the door, long hair shining in the streetlight, 
then drive away.


My Mother’s Green Coat

A Christmas gift from 
my brother and me, 

paid for with our paper-route 
profits, initially a strand 

of pearls, exchanged 
when my father said, 

boys, these are lovely, but 
what your mother really needs 

is a good winter coat: 
worn for years through frost

and rain and uncertain days
till worn out—the finest gift

I ever received, my mother 
said. I loved that coat, cried

when I had to let it go—
cherished, complete in the 

best way a thing can be, as
exquisite as a well-lived life.



Yesterday, I realized I’ve misplaced 
the photograph of my father as a child, 

the one in which he’s standing with his brothers 
beneath some willows, somewhere 

in Pennsylvania or perhaps Ohio, near a river, 
shadows across their faces beneath the trees. 

They’re gone now. The shadows. The faces. 
Most likely even the trees.


Phoenix, September 1977

Standing naked in the front yard 
of my girlfriend’s house, 3:00 a.m. 
Sunday morning, a small,
delicious defiance, air smelling 
clean, temperature in the 70s, 
breeze like cashmere across my skin, 
each pore open to the night, tingling.
I could hear George Benson 
on the stereo inside:           
Everything must change...
nothing stays the same,
the young become the old...

And I didn’t care that it wouldn’t last, 
the exquisite now—without thought 
or analysis, past or future—this moment,  
stars grinning down, me grinning back.


SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Terry Hertzler

has worked as a writer and editor for more than 30 years. In addition, he has taught writing at the university level as well as for the Southern California Writers’ Conference. His poetry and short stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including North American Review, The Iowa Review, The Writer, Margie, Nimrod, and the Los Angeles Times. His work has also been produced on stage and for radio and television. His publications include The Way of the Snake, a book of poetry on the war in Vietnam; Second Skin, a collection of poetry and short fiction; and several chapbooks.

“...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