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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Fireworks I impact more when I cut across, interrupting you, than when I arise without a base, or a push. Fireworks went off in the sky, in the backyard. Our bodies grounded, our heads upturned to watch the mayfly stars sparkle, turn colors, and die. And turning our heads down, facing one another, we stared, parting our lips only to breathe. This is how we have grown: sharp and fresh to common and trivial. You begin to talk I begin to talk we stop. And resume our curious look over each other. I slide into a chair and turn my eyes toward the sky, knowing you are watching me move. You come, take my hand, and pull me up from the chair. But I resist, slipping my hand from yours, and fall back into the seat, avoiding your look. So much is said with the hands. And the face. And the body. We should’ve known upon meeting that we would have lasted only one day. That our lives could be each other’s base just one time, before they dropped, colorless, and dead. JASON HENSEL Untilling This garden seems to grow whether I want it to or no, and then it vanishes. Where did I leave it last? Every sprig of hope I plant turns wilty in my palm, the itch of bloom and thorn. And you, my serpent, ruminant worm, have eaten through the fruit and pleaded deaf and dumb. I’ve scored each acre with these thumbs, sowing for the truth, but Christ, for all I know was just a carpenter, mistletoe besides and cross to bear. Still, I cultivate. As if I could resuscitate my fig and apple faith. JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM 0 n these pages we feature three poets from three Texas cities and a guest from New Jersey. Jason Hensel is a graduate of the University of North Texas in Denton and currently lives in Dallas. He edits the literary magazine Mind Purge. He has been published in Borderlands, Concho River Review, and North Texas Review. Jill Alexander Essbaum lives and writes in Austin, where she is a student at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. M. Alexander works for Houston Community College and lives with the poet K.A. Thomas. Publication credits include The New Orleans Review, The Atlanta Review, and Borderlands. Judy Michaels has been artist-in-residence at Princeton Day School since 1989. She is also a poet in the schools for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in New Jersey. Her book Risking Intensity, about writing and reading poetry with high school students, was published by the National Council of Teachers of English. Naomi Shihab Nye The Observer’s poetry page is partially funded through a grant from the Austin Writers’ League, in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 23, 1999