David Hernandez writes in a world lacking people. There are a few, yes, who appear as stones behind post-office counters; or vacant and blank from a “tablet that dissolved beneath her tongue.” When more animate, they wield chainsaws, or have wrapped duct tape round their own wrists, or they’re “on a folding chair. A scowl governing his face. In his left hand, a beer can” who racks up death after death with his fly swatter, the way “a man could kill another man. Without a thought.” When the poet has sex, “her blouse [is] flayed open”. People in a mosh pit are better, in the dark, one body of bodies, where “my knees are her knees”, and “how lovely the one crushed beside me”.
Hernandez writes in a world of such people. No wonder that “Three days without Cymbalta and my own head ends up blowing bubbles on the bottom of depression’s pool.” You, too, have been there. You have grimly contemplated our species, known for certain that “we were hoodwinked”, that “doom was in our blood, so death was the shadow of tomorrow.” Have stared at pompous men and thought, “Stuck up. Stick it up the you-know-what.”
Hernandez lives in a world full of animals. They are full of grace. A saving grace. Bears, moose, buffalo, all shine with “the electric blue current of animal instinct.” Possums, cats, a donkey plodding over a land mine — all are untainted, living their own rich lives, around us always, lacking foul intent. Nothing animal is alien to Hernandez. Maggots, even, are dinner where “brown-winged butterflies mingled … Where nature pulled long satin gloves over her many warts.”
Since “the body you’re suited-up in is a body death is slowly unzipping”, it will become food for worms the songbird has in its craw when the hawk pounces on it, “its red shriek tapering to silence.” In these poems, Hernandez stares unblinking at this fact, this cycle, how we turn from it to make our tales nonetheless.