Three Poems by Richard Hedderman

These three poems by Richard Hedderman explore the mortal forces within us that, through breathtaking collisions with the world, are scattered, gathered, and refracted, once again through our own mythos. They exhort us to accept that all we are ever trying to do is survive what’s been given us—the harrowing and the tender—before it leaves our grasp for good…

by: Richard Hedderman


They pitched the big top
just outside of town
in a field of parched grass,

and sold out by noon. Now,
the barker counts the take,
and the water boy sweeps

sawdust into little pyramids.
The trapeze artist dozes
under the classifieds,

the lion tamer murmurs
to his whip in tones
once reserved for his lover,

the one who rode the zebra
balancing on its voluptuous
spine. The elephants sleep

standing up, the clowns sit
in their grease paint,
playing solitaire

by the light of kerosene
lamps. The tattooed lady
makes peace with her demons.

Listen closely and you can hear
the sound of breath
fogging the fun house mirror.

Still Life Work Boots

I still think of them, lost
when you gave them away
thinking they were in the Goodwill
pile, when I’d only left them

near the Goodwill Pile, and you
cried when I got mad. Blotched
with diesel when I fueled the moving
truck on a highway in Indiana,

spattered exuberantly from the time
we tried to keep the rotting picket fence
together by saturating it with Cabot’s.
Primer from the bathroom ceiling

dropped thick coins of dazzling
white on the toes; sweat-salt etched
the uppers. I recall the tongues
hanging out after a long day

raking the sodden debris of November.
The soles I couldn’t tell you about, but I could
tell about the laces, about threading
the eyes with them, and suturing the wounds

I made standing in my own darkness.


Its immaculate steeple
orbited by a wild horse,
The rider dropped
with the blow of an ax.
Flaring with starlight
it glints with the white
of knuckles gripping
a weapon or clutching
the heel of Achilles,
dipped and retrieved,
glazed with power
like the new moon,
white of thorn on the cusp.
Its breast is quiet now.
Dew graces its morning
where the bloody armies
of thorn stand ranked
in the brambles. Touch
its blade, edged
in the blue
of a fresh wound,
bear its secrets,
revealed only
when blood is drawn:
How to find shade
in a barren place,
to drink from the torn
mouth of a rose.
How to survive
edged weapons.

Richard Hedderman is a multi Pushcart Prize nominee and author of two collections of poetry including, most recently, Choosing a Stone (Finishing Line Press). His writing has appeared in many publications both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as in several anthologies including In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare (University of Iowa Press). He has performed his writing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and was a Guest Poet at the Library of Congress. More of his work can be found at

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