Poems by Orlando Hernández


Image Courtesy of Magalie L’Abbé. Shared via a Creative Commons license.


Dancing in the Market for Eels

For all eels
for all colonials, all
flanks, all knees, for all those
who were never colonized.
For all ankles, trade winds,
and toes

For all eels, all elbows, calling
all colonials, all those
who were never colonized,
all heels knocking
de breath out of boards.



Some Reconnaissance I Did for You

Arm at the hip, arm turned up
at the elbow, holding
up something, fingers

bent and arriving
at points
like eels. Horseshoe

torso and tiny
heel sounds.

Hat down to the boots.
In the mud.

Pulling upward
the neck and back
sink, the elbows tuck
into the knees,

heel-prints and hand-prints
deep in the mud.

Pig coming sniffing by.
Pig coming farming

up the minerals
and spongy facts,
too round

while the figure
is too sharp and defined.

The bones are quick
under a blanket of mud,

the factual body flung
like sheet music

Muddy Mr. Pig
in a tableau

telling the time,
up to his ears in it.




The Estimable Mayors of San Juan

There is a mayor on every corner. Way back
where she weaves in and out along the narrow
blue streets; where, into waving, expectant
hands, she again makes campaign offerings
from a baggage claim vehicle, back
there is the river we find no rest from.

I am imagining a city, whole regions of calm
water beneath and around it. Left to our own
hope and craft and exchanges of baggage
for claims, a city, of campaigns for vehicles,
splayed and unsound as all the others just
gridded of deep blues and slow ballots.



Medicine Man

———-“Sir, how is it that Your Lordship wishes me to go to live with
———-Guarionex, knowing no language other than that of Macorís?”
———-–Fray Ramón Pané, An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians

The first day waiting for my medicine
I told myself that my moments of incompleteness or incoherence
———-were my only virtues.
The second day waiting for my medicine
I told myself that all the times I was too clear, and later felt I’d been
———-naïve or compromised, were my only hope.

The first day, I longed for you
and you were there—like a sea of sparks
———-for dry, dark areas of me.
The second day, driving me, lost, among
———-fields of plants called “I speak”
and “Speak me,” the sun carried me off.

On the first day, I purged the sick man; we ate
the same herbs and made the same faces. I told him
———-his sickness had come from me.
On the second day we formed a household, and together
———-we guarded some fields that had been tilled
or we had been ordered to till. Days wore on. On

the first day I was a white clown,
and on the second day I was a brown one,
and in between I slept quickly and didn’t make a sound.


Orlando Hernández is a writer and tap dancer from Hoboken, NJ. His father is Puerto Rican, from Moca, and his mother is Jewish, from Providence, RI. He received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Yale University, where he had the opportunity to work with Richard Deming, Louise Glück, and Peter Cole. From 2013-2014 he lived in Tomelloso and Madrid, Spain, with funding to study and translate the poetry of Dionisio Cañas. He currently lives in Rhode Island, working at schools and teaching tap dance. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Fence, New American Writing, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños: Letras, PRISM international, The New Haven Review, and Circumference.