Varieties of Internal Torment

Under the linden, a weatherworn
bench. Eleven wooden slats in all

to build a simple thing for sitting.
The one still generating green,

shawled in August sunlight,
hovers over the one chainsawed

and hauled to the lumberyard.
Each time it was split, sawdust leapt.

The bench was built. Years passed
and now a pair of students sit together.

One has something impossible to say
without hurting the other.

Hunched, bent from the burden of it,
while the sun continues to

spangle the linden, green flame
after green flame, their faces dappled

in leaf-shadow. He knows he must
confess, how to hammer the sentences

with enough nails spiking out
from compressed lips. It will be over

soon, his hesitation marked by
how red the stripes behind her thighs.

Copyright © 2017 David Hernandez. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.