Broken Ice by Edward Hack

Broken Ice

She stared out at the ice collapsed upon
the thawing, stony shore. Thick slabs that Time
had broken off, a sledge that pounded stone.
Be warmer soon, the one thought in her mind.
She turned away to finish work she’d just
begun—not endless, but enough of it.
The folding, putting things away, the fuss
of domesticity…things have their niche,
a simple truth that keeps the world intact.
When sunset bled onto the lake, she thought
about that ice, how life is freed or trapped—
of all, what brought her life the peace she sought?
She thought, A life is lived as best one can.
And that’s enough, she knew, to understand.

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the simplest aphorism can save a life.

Where There Had Been by Edward Hack

Where There Had Been

Birds chirp the morning in
the clouds revealed by light
gray wind-shaped forms
from which this new day’s born

The stream is filled with shadow trees
black beneath green otherness
Pink the morning’s first surprise
points to a Truth that cannot be denied

Three friends have died in the last three years
One smiles the way he always did
from the card his family sent
Cancer ate his life till it was spent

The sky feels troubled though it’s blue
Too many clouds with sun shot through
are fretted like a criss-crossed mind
stunned by a glimpse of its dasein

An old friend writes that she has Parkinson’s
as bright and fierce as she’s always been
lists her symptoms asks when all the fun
begins stares at a future pinned

a specimen where there had been a life
of purposes and foreign lands
teaching as delight
a bone-deep drive to understand

to change the game
And now she snorts ironically
consoles me for the tsurus I had named
and helplessly is driven to her knees

Next day the water’s oiled ink
the sky inside it gray metallic rippling
Above a bruise of blue and pink and black
though clarity is slowly coming back

as if that makes a difference
The sun’s a golden broken disk
uncanny as all nature is
beyond what we can wish

and we wake into miracles
that babies and the wise can know
while we get through on guess and hope and gall
as seasons turn from seed to bud to snow

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: This poem’s meter and rhyme push against the missing punctuation and enjambment—form against formlessness. This tension reflects the poem’s narrative with great skill; moving from clarity and confusion to joy and grief, and further, as the human condition insists.

When We Learned This Truth by Edward Hack

When We Learned This Truth

It’s odd about the winter sun. Plain light.
No heat. That’s it. A bare bulb glow that’s weak
and white. A Harbor Freight shine barely bright.
Let’s say Ok, just competently bleak.
It doesn’t show what isn’t there, not one
pale shadow on the snow, no subtlety
of autumn’s fire, or spring’s delicious fun
with tones, or summer’s fierce intensities.
Today’s a room with primer on the walls,
one chair, a naked window like an eye
that cannot blink, a room where every flaw’s
an argument that says don’t even try
to wish for more, that’s not what winter’s for.
We learned this truth a long, long time before.

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: The opening lines of this sonnet emphasize the subject matter with perfectly short sentences; as if to say: this is the truth. Believe it.

Predawn, Winter by Edward Hack

Predawn, Winter

The predawn snow glows dull and dark, a snake
asleep against the bushes black with night,
tree skeletons, tall, twisted, bony shapes,
the sky a gray the opposite of light
a half tone lighter than the black. This is
an ancient time we feel deep in our bones
that have no memory of spring, the bliss
of warming sun. Our bones know we’re alone
with this, the dark and frozen time is here,
a nothingness come due, the slate wiped clean.
This is the reckoning, stripped down and clear,
the knuckled fact, the balanced beam.
Stay warm and understand. Stay close to fire.
This is the other side of all desire.

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: Chilling, clear imagery and perfect rhymes animate this sonnet beautifully. Maybe we should all stay inside the next time it snows, eh?

Caught Between by Edward Hack

Caught Between

Third train since 5am. The first one’s call
was loud and cracked the ice of night, the horn
a warning and an omen too that all
for which we don’t yet have a name is born
and on its way. We’re caught between the now
and then, and though the world is frozen cold
Time ticks its endless round through every how
and why and if, the questions that are old
as eyes that first saw weather change and knew
before words told the news that this is all
there is. We hunkered down near fire, lips blue
from cold, and huddled close before the fall
of day to stars, those silvered and indifferent lights
that glowed throughout the long and brutal nights.

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet reminds the reader that humans are both mortal and fragile despite the seeming inevitability of each new train.

The Cost by Edward Hack

The Cost

The birds work all day long. No holidays,
no birds’-day-off, no time to read or write
a note to birds in other states, no way
to just relax, catch up on news, get tight
with dear old friends. Set free to roam the skies,
they do not roam but hunt familiar turf.
They aren’t free but starving all their lives;
instinctual, they live to scan their earth
for food from dawn to dark. What grace, their glides,
their arabesques. But truth to say, it’s all
to hunt, escape from predators, survive
to search again for food. We stare, enthralled—
imagination’s angels on their course—
then pause at the exaction of the cost.

by Edward Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet pointedly reminds us that there isn’t much difference between us and the birds, despite what our overgrown brains might think of their beauty.