Tom C. Hunley: "Um"




Often I’m awakened by awful noises,

jackhammers, dynamite, walls crumbling

and bigger ones climbing the sky

in their places. My future arrives and I

have to settle for it.  I don’t understand how

I got here any more than a lobster understands

how it ended up in a tank next to a Please wait  

to be seated sign, but both of us can read

the faces of the cruelly beautiful women

pointing at us. I always feel eyes on me,

so I apologize to insects after I kill them

and to the salmon on my plate, caught

being nostalgic for home. Everything makes sense

if you squint just right, and at least once a day

I realize that whatever I’ve been saying

isn’t the point at all.  I spend most days listening

to other people almost making sense, and I don’t

ask them what the hell they’re talking about

because they’re on television or the radio, or

because I’m eavesdropping from the next table.

When I’m not talking or listening, I'm in a

boil, my shell softening. I'm getting a good look

at a wrecking ball. I’m crumbling.

I volunteered for all this, accidentally,

by raising my hand, intending to ask

a question I couldn’t put into words.



Tom C. Hunley is an associate professor of creative writing at Western Kentucky and the director of Steel Toe Books. He has published poems in various literary journals, including Triquarterly, New York Quarterly, North American Review, New Orleans Review, and River Styx.  He has recently won two national contests, one for a full-length poetry manuscript (Logan House Press) and another for a chapbook (Pecan Grove Press).  Hunley is also the author of Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five-Canon Approach (Multilingual Matters LTD. 2007).