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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Close Enough to Touch

by Terry Hertzler

As a baby, I’m told, I reached for the moon.
This is not uncommon. Infants, still sorting out
me versus other, as yet unaware that reach
exceeds grasp, implicitly accept the connection
of everything to everything, see all the world
as an inch of time—here, now. It never lasts.

San Diego’s a city of canyons and mesas,
communities separated by geologic space,
larger canyons teeming with freeways and
strip malls. Smaller canyons are different.
I once watched a mule deer leaping through
eucalyptus, fleeing the Interstate,
and for a moment I thought it would fly.

And once at lunch, walking the edge
of a canyon, slope yellow with wild flowers,
I saw a bee, just one bee, patiently mining
the blossoms. I stood watching for a moment,
then noticed another bee, then another,
the entire hillside swimming with bees—
and dragonflies, lizards, ants, butterflies—
the canyon roiling with life and movement,
all of it there the entire time.

It never lasts, but for a moment I saw it all:
earth revolving in space, our dance through time.

I didn’t return to work that day, climbed down
the canyon, then up a mesa, watched the sun curl
through the late afternoon sky, yellow to red, light
falling across a vernal pool of San Diego mesa mint,
a plant that exists nowhere else in the world—fragile
as summer frost—and I crouched there, inhaling
the strong minty aroma, tiny pinkish-purple flowers.
And when I stood at last, I glanced to the east
just as the moon rose over the Lagunas, pale orange
and fat as a baby.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

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