Three Poems by Jeffrey Hermann

Problems in a Canoe

The picture book says there is no magic
in a canoe, only a series of problems to be solved.
You loosen the cedar strips with steam
work them across cutouts and stem molds
to form the hull, the hollow space inside.

We have a fish instead of a dog. He rests
his head on the blue rocks at the bottom of the tank,
drapes his languid body over a plant,
limp, like a man in a hammock.
We press our fingers on the glass, say his name.

My daughter wonders about the Titanic, eerie
down there in the North Atlantic, too deep for fish.
Does it wish to be left alone all these years later
just its skeletons to keep it company?

Does it miss the two little boys who rowed away
in wet wool coats without their father?

When the water gets hazy and muck creeps
up the side of the tank, we get the net and bowl.
I slide my hand easy under the water
and raise him up. He’s still but for his gills waving
little waves in a spoonful of water.

He weighs nothing, wetness inside and out.
We take turns touching him softly, his skin glittery
blue and silver. Then I turn him back to the water,
his passage complete, safe in the little boat of my palm.


Lake Trout Notes

I ask these fish if they attach meaning and
emotion to their lives but they just swim off
with the bread I drop over the pier.

I don’t fish anymore. I don’t miss the hooks
or the taking of a life. I miss the holding of it
in my hands. Taught and slippery. The warning

and fight in the spines of its fins. A little river
of red down my palm because one of us has bled.


Masters of Fine Art

Because I never went to grad school
my students are confused about office hours
They wander a marble hallway

The essay never assigned on sensory illusion
in the nature poems of Wang Wei
is making them lose sleep and dream up excuses

Passionate sad stories about unreliable cars
or broken hearts

After all, they are unreliable, they are broken

A thousand miles away I’m writing ad copy
fabricating quotes for a chain of cupcake stores

Some days I actually whistle on my way out the door

And when I get into my car I notice
how the reflection
in my side mirror makes it look
as if the mountain
I’m driving away from
is growing closer and closer


Jeffrey Hermann’s poetry and prose has appeared in Hobart, Palette Poetry, UCity Review, trampset, The Shore, and other publications. Though less publicized, he finds his work as a father and husband to be rewarding beyond measure. 

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