top of page

H.R. Webster


When I found the flock of flickers, yellow-shafted, dead on the beach, 30 of them or more, some whole and some in segmented pieces of wing and tail, I thought of the Mennonite girls at the Air and Space Museum, crossing the lobby in their sheer bonnets, cape dresses, light-up sneakers.


Why, beyond the word “flock,” did I think of them? Was it simply abundance’s horror? The fist of garter snakes in the stone wall, the stone wall through the hundred-year woods, revealed by LiDar to web the acreage as though the loam were a lion pinned still with ropes. The snakes like the photoshopped coterie of models—too many slim arms, missing leg, shoulder dislocated to reach around a ribless, concave waist.


The birds on the beach knocked down by a storm that barely registered in my body. Flickers, if I saw them moving in the trees, I would think “goldfinch.” Would not pause to pin them to their proper names. 


What is the purpose, the political purpose, of these correspondences? My fear of their apparent instinct, their ease? The sneaking belief that they are more real than me, than the obedient sea. To name what is and is not natural is to exercise power. Foil envelope of red salt. Desire to bite a baby's smooth cheek or banded knee. What people did or didn’t do when the boat sank.


Grief, for Sidney

Your pillow’s smell: swollen lid of a jar.

Cling peaches, verge of rupture. Pampas grass

braiding, unbraiding, rebraiding. Red scar

on back of left ankle, sawing lasso

of rough lead tying hound to brush heap.

Bottle rocket char on cement. Nosebleed

mar on your coverlet. Knee-deep

poison ivy, nettles, knee-deep jewelweed,

ruinous nonsense song, cat with abscessed

tooth. Rubbed blister. Buck of a high note.

This song is not for you, dearest guest,

but for David, my heart, my little boat.

Who loved you with his whole. I wish it was

enough, love. To lay in this wave’s low pause.



The concave lens of ice on the path tows

me towards its shivering center. Every

person is as real as you are. To know

so is a futile discipline. Freshly

snapped bough. Perfume from hair. I flex my fist

in her glove, picked up in the parking lot.

Warm, stretch out the leather. The windbent list

of names gallops sky to sky. Futile, not

unimportant. My path never crosses

the other woman’s though there is one trail,

one summit. Imagine they were vases.

Each, like you, filled with self. Questioning, frail.

The ice moans and tears. Water fills my boot.

Nothing remains but to retrace our route.

Headshot2024 - Hannah Webster.jpg

H.R. Webster is the author of What Follows (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). Her poems can be found in Agni, POETRY, The Iowa Review, and Guernica. Her work has been supported by the Vermont Studio Center and the Fine Arts Work Center. She lives and works in the Hudson Valley. 

Bear Review


bottom of page