The Grammar of Habit

Until the end of the sentence my reader waits,
and I, myself, wait—

to go back to that house of first rooms, of room
shared with my brother, of split-level and landing

and railing, of comfort and corn fields, creek—speak,
house, speak: when I was six or seven I hid under my mother’s

ironing board: it stood like a fort, the triangle
of its wooden legs around me; I gathered my animals

under it in the early morning hours, I did not wake
my parents up; the iron was on and its chord hung down

(this was before automatic shut offs: who made the
automatic shut off?)—eventually things fall; I have

left my subject until the end: the iron fell, branded
my foot with its silver edge: my left foot, the devil’s

side; but I always liked the way the scar streaked
down my foot, red lightening, dividing its map

into east and west, all the way down, even the toe;
that burn filled a blister that burst in the night—

going deeper into the night I remember my mother
caring for that foot like it was hers: silver cream,

loose bandages and medical tape, soothing words;
it still turns blue in cold water, like child-lips

after ice cream—my sister had no ironing board:
in the widest of all possible places, on the shore,

blue before us, first night at the beach, she told
me everything; it was hard to speak

to my brother again; it is hard to let him love
his nephews, my sons; they are the subjects

we leave to the end—
under a night sky, they skim like pelicans.





Hannah VanderHart lives in Durham, NC. She has her MFA from George Mason University, and is currently at Duke University writing her dissertation on gender and collaboration poetics in the seventeenth century. She has poems and reviews recently published and forthcoming at The McNeese Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Unbroken Journal, Thrush, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and The Greensboro Review. More at:




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