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Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

Far from the buggy cone of the porch light
two boys kiss breathlessly, fingers enlaced,
their tongues delicate as snails touching horns.
And from under the rhododendron, the snail
herself pulls her soft foot over the floss
of the grass, leaving behind a frail drizzle of silver.
The raccoon in his leather gloves licks
sticky gold from the broken crockery of egg shells.
And the Thief, the armful of her hair pinned,
glinting, under her hat, pauses in driveway
after driveway to wrench stereos from dashboards.
Yes, she’s thinking of the businessmen who will rise before dawn
and leave without breakfast, nothing but coffee
in their sour stomachs, who have no choice
now but to hear the birds, no choice but to witness
how their breath blows out the last faint stars
wavering atop the blue cake of morning.

Jean Hollander won the Eileen W. Barnes Award for her first book of poems, Crushed into Honey. Her second collection was a winner in the QRL Poetry Book Series. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Her verse translation (with Robert Hollander) of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio were published by Doubleday. Paradiso will be released this year. She has taught literature and writing at Princeton University, Brooklyn College, and other institutions. (updated 5/2007)

Katherine Hollander’s poetry and critical writing have appeared in Pleiades, Poet Lore, Open City, AGNI Online, Verse, and elsewhere. She holds a degree from the graduate program in Creative Writing at Boston University. (updated 7/2009)

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