Header artwork by Sugar Smallhouse

hilary vaughn dobel


It’s only when you’ve learned what wants
changing that you learn to fear
you cannot change it: there,

dragging its feet
and sulking beneath
the Tree of Things You Never Practiced,

is what you’ve missed—
there, the way to take another
at their word; there, the arm

around a shoulder; the graceful exit.
So you prod the places in yourself
like seams of broken bones

where you are brittle, bitter, prone
to strain, the water
you cannot name

falling through you. After so many days
of rousing, breathing, your life
has borne you here, tenderly,

and will not leave you—a sleeping
passenger it dare not wake,
a footsore thing too wild to stay

but sick with running
and nothing
to be done for it.


Hilary Vaughn Dobel's poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in Boston Review, Ploughshares, and The New York Times. She is the translator of Nine Coins/Nueve monedas by Carlos Pintado and The Clouds/Las nubes by Juan Jose Saer. A graduate of Princeton University, she also holds an MFA from Columbia University. She was most recently a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Hilary was born in Seattle and lives in Boston.