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Tender Talk

Today’s poem is "Tender Talk" by Leonore Hildebrandt. She is the author of the poetry collections Where You Happen to Be, The Work at Hand, and The Next Unknown. Her poems and translations have appeared in the Cimarron Review, The Fiddlehead, Harpur Palate, Poetry Daily, RHINO, and the Sugar House Review, among other journals. A native of Germany, Leonore lives “off the grid” in Harrington, Maine.
She writes, “Tender Talk is set in Washington County, Maine, where I have been living for almost forty years. It’s a persona poem in which I assembled bits of true stories. I was particularly moved by the emotional stamina of the romance, and how the speaker’s poverty and hand-to-mouth lifestyle is met by her resourcefulness.”

Tender Talk
by Leonore Hildebrandt

In the yard, specks of color—
leaves torn from the oak tree.
I came here to check him out
and ended up staying five days.
The neighbors give me knowing smiles.
So let’s talk love.
He’s not a man of many words,
but he spelled my name right.
How many times can one choose?
He fixes cars, owns 200 acres of scrubby marshland.
He saves quarters in jars, bills in a box.
(One gallon of pennies, they say, is 50 dollars!)

I’ve seen tears, bloody messes, and all.
Once I saw a woman on stage—
crying, she hit the strings hard,
she wiped her face and kept going.
We sat there, frozen.  We meant well.
Does it start with pain?

No one likes to be sent away.
No one likes to be left in the rain.
I have a pick-up and a phone. A grandkid on the way.
His House is warm, his hands able.
People around here, they’re scared
The night swallows some of us.

“Tender Talk” copyright 2018 by Leonore Hildebrandt. Reprinted from Balancing Act II (Littoral Books, 2018) by permission of the author.