by Donna Hilbert

The stir of the curtain
past my face as I sleep:
my mother imagines dancing.

A turquoise goose
and a white goose
visit me in a dream.
The goose of marvelous blue
coaxes my ear with his bill.
Because I can’t follow
this magnificent bird,
I allow him to follow me.

The child is taking a bath.
Her mother is on the bathroom floor, crying.
Her father leans on the doorjamb.
He smells of old sweat and mown grass.

Mrs. West, who looks
under the bed and inside the closet
for witches; Agnes, who pulls her hair
and scratches her; and a fat girl
who her grandmother says is
as lazy as the day is long.

The stir of the curtain
past my face as I sleep:
the cellar, the math room,
little Kathy Fiscus in the well.

Hibiscus, bougainvillea, tulips, iris.
She favors the blue hibiscus
for its ranginess and sensual control.

Some days he drinks iced tea
from thick jelly glasses.
Other days, beer from tin cans
he can crush with one hand.

On warm afternoons
the child makes mud babies
then lines them in neat rows to dry.

The stir of the curtain
past my face as I sleep:
I’m going to find me a hole,
crawl in
and let the dirt fall
in after me.

All the spring bulbs had come up.
The child and her grandmother May
make a May basket for the mother
whose husband has gone.

Beautiful girl,
don’t cry.
You’ll soon grow
just what you need.

The child sits on the blue divan
eating her father’s cigarettes.
Her mother says her eyes are blue.
Her grandmother says they’re hazel.
Her father sings
beautiful, beautiful brown eyes.

My mother imagines dancing
dreams of flying
longs to grow fat
under tropical flowers.

She walks the three blocks
to her grandmother’s house,
avoiding the cracks,
avoiding the horny toads.
She helps her grandmother feed
the chickens and geese
and water the flowers.
How does your garden grow?

May basket, May day,
a prayer that her father
will stay away.

The stir of the curtain
past my face as I sleep:
poor Kathy Fiscus
a bedroom of witches
pretty little maids in a row
From this deep well I am pulling
a woman.

IMAGE: “Wild Geese,” stencil by Henny Donovan available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest book, The Congress of Luminous Bodies, is availble from Aortic Books or at The Green Season (World Parade Books), a collection of poems, stories, and essays, is now available in an expanded second edition. Donna appears in and her poetry is the text of the documentary Grief Becomes Me: A Love Story, a Christine Fugate film. Earlier books include Mansions and Deep Red from Event Horizon, Transforming Matter and Traveler in Paradise from Pearl Editions, and the short story collection Women Who Make Money and the Men Who Love Them from Staple First Editions (published in England). Poems in Italian can be found in Bloc notes 59 and in French in La page blanche, in both cases translated by Mariacristina Natalia Bertoli. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of 5AM, Nerve Cowboy, RC Muse, Serving House Journal, Pearl, California Quarterly, and Poets & Artists.Her work is widely anthologized, most recently in The Widows’ Handbook, Kent State University Press. Learn more at