Always Danger

Always Danger

by David Hernandez

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Always Danger offers a lyrical and highly imaginative exploration into the hazards that surround people’s lives—whether it’s violence, war, mental illness, car accidents, or the fury of Mother Nature. In his second collection of poems, David Hernandez embraces the element of surprise: a soldier takes refuge inside a hollowed-out horse, a man bullies a mountain, and a giant pink donut sponsors age-old questions about beliefs. Hernandez typically eschews the politics that often surround the inner circle of contemporary literature, but in this volume he quietly sings a few bars with a political tone: one poem shadows the conflict in Iraq, another reflects our own nation’s economic and cultural divide. Always Danger parallels Hernandez’s joy of writing: unmapped, spontaneous, and imbued with nuanced revelation.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780809387908
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Publication date: 02/28/2006
Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 104
File size: 532 KB

About the Author

David Hernandez published hisfirst collection of poems, A House Waiting for Music, in 2003. His poems have appeared in FIELD, The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, AGNI,The Southern Review, and TriQuarterly. His drawings have appeared in Other Voices, Gargoyle, and Indiana Review. Hernandez lives in Long Beach, California, with his wife, writer Lisa Glatt.

Read an Excerpt


I know a girl thirteen and lean
as a sunflower stalk, all blunt

angles and bones, a girl who
never removes her necklace,

a black string of shark teeth.
To school and home, to shower

and sleep-always the comfort
of those incisors resting against

collarbone. Between classes
she slips her narrow body

through crammed hallways,
around jutting backpacks, elbows.

Home, whatever's spooned
onto her plate she nibbles with

her small teeth, her larger pair
dangling above the untouched

potatoes. Only one finger's
needed to empty her stomach,

one to flush before she showers,
water lacquering her skin, water

climbing down the twelve rungs
of ribcage. Off to sleep, barely

a mound under the covers,
barely the rise and fall of breathing

as her necklace etches her flesh,
checkmarks over her heart.


A boy runs into a busy street,
a boy who happens to be my father.
Yes he's careless and yes here comes
the taxicab. This happened
in Bogotá, Colombia. And this:

a boy falls, a boy who happens
to be my father, fallen before
the taxicab. You know what
happens next: my existence
spoils the drama. How the taxicab

glides over my father and skims
his shoulder blades. He stands
unscathed and brushes the dust off
his clothes and continues to breathe.
Fallen differently, I'm not here.

Fallen the way he did, I am.
When the boy who happens to be
my father runs into a busy street,
I'm in the backseat of that taxicab
with my brother and sister.

The three of us, we're outlined.
Our skin is translucent as cellophane.
When we begin to scream
nothing but nothing leaps
from the zeros of our mouths.

Such is how the future lives
without influencing the world.
And my mother? She's the girl
hundreds of miles south, blowing
air into a plastic ring skinned

with water and soap. The flimsy
bubbles lift. Whether they are
pushed into a wall, the spikes
of branches, or the sky's blue field,
it is up to the wind.


There's always the pit bull
lunging for someone's throat.
There's always the girl sucked
into the shadow of a van
and dumped in a field or the vast
blue of the ocean. And the car
crumpled like foil on the freeway,
the yellow sheet, the vigil
of flares. There's always that.
There's always the plunging bombs,
those wingless birds, silver-beaked,
whistling their death songs.
There's always the bullied kid
with revenge in his backpack.
Always. And there's always
the Christmas tree in flames,
its ornaments softening
like sherbet, in a house with bodies
dreaming under bedcovers.
A cop to chalk circles around
bullet casings. The black widow
and a baby's pudgy arm. The fallen
dominoes of a derailed train.
There's always an epidemic
congealing in the air. There's
always the busy café and someone
in a trench coat with his finger
on the switch. There's always
the man with a 3-inch nail
driven through his skull plate
who says he didn't feel a thing.


We see the shadow of a bumblebee.
Fat dot skating the basketball court
where it's skins versus shirts. Benched,

a girl flirts with a boy diamonded
with sweat at the three-point line.
The orange ball's pitched his way,

fingers spread as if pushing a glass door.
Around the girl we see the blue air
blushes when she smiles. Shadow

of the basketball slides to the shadow
of the boy, charcoaling the court.
Curbside, a lustrous car rolls,

a tinted window whines down.
The sky around the girl vibrates red.
The boy shoots and we see the shadow

of the ball on the pavement gliding
toward the circle of the hoop.
We see the revolver but not what zips

out of its barrel, not the broken dash
of its shadow. Another black stitch
pulled from the world's seams.


His head jackknifed is the best way to put it.
She sliced the teakettle's throat when it screeched
on the burner. After the water was poured, the air
above the teacup filled with ghost shavings.

His head swayed on the ceiling like a birthday balloon.
Outside, a windblown potted plant sliced
the air with long green knives. You could see
the moon was quickly becoming a ghost.

The moon with its head inside the night's guillotine.
A lemon slice to squeeze into the tea. He blew
steam into the air before taking a sip.
A ghost-cloud pressed its face against the window

as his head slowly descended back into his collar.
With the bedroom light sliced off, the dark arrived-
a black crayon scribbling over air. His face
was ghostlike. There, where the crayon stopped filling.

Table of Contents



The Soldier Inside the Horse
Customer Lounge
The Grandfather
The Taxicab Incident
According to One Statistic
The Goldfish
Another Dimension
Always Danger

Composition in Red
Composition in Black
The Whirling Funnel
So the Pilot Says Over the Intercom
Humiliating the Tyrants
At the Courthouse
Jury Duty
Chess Match Ends in Fight

Early Lesson
Vons Parking Lot, Late October
Ghost Brother
Driving Toward the Sun
A Story to Tell
The Quiet Minutes
The Dinner Party
The Gondolier
How to Commit Adultery
Leaving the Nurse

Portrait of My Father Slapping His Ear
What a Little Charisma Can Do
Man on an Island
The Sad Punk
Balcony Talk with Cigars
Donut Shop
The Eyes

The Circus Octopus
Self-Portrait with Back Turned
A Brief History of Antidepressants

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