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Donna Hilbert

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Her work has appeared in Rattle, The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, A Year of Being Here, Cultural Weekly, Zocalo Public Square, and numerous anthologies. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home. Learn more at


for T.E.

You looked good last night
in gold sweatshirt and jeans,
face alive with color,
as if you’d walked home
from school in the cold.
The others were stunned,
so, I made a blanket of my body
to hold you, but again
you dropped into the hole
wide and dank as my world.


What doesn’t pinch, pouches
and looks suspicious.
What’s the meaning of this patch
of peeling skin? The intermittent
stitch joining hip to belly,
what does that mean? My legs
awaken me at night with an ache so deep,
I struggle in vain to relax and sleep.
As a child, I screamed from the nightly clutch
of growing pains after days scaling trees,
then biking home to supper before dusk.
Now, I’m not young. Nothing grows.
My body is a house of cards about to shuffle,
a fallow land of falling dominoes.


I sit on the back porch
crying into a book
about Appalachian women
cleaving to each other
in life and death.
It’s hot for May. Still, palm trees stir
and in the neighbor’s yard
friends play ping pong, passing time
in this season of seamless time.
Fear sits with me. I give him his due,
but don’t know how to entertain him.
Then, from the deep unknown
my mother warns:
Don’t feed him, Donna June,
or he’ll never pack up, go home.

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