Two Poems by Julie Hensley


When snakes writhe up 

from the thawed ground, she steps carefully 

and tries not to begrudge the cold-blooded desire

which leaves the creatures undulating in the sun-

warmed gravel or threading themselves 

through the south-facing porch rails.

Something languid and true in their unbinding, 

in their spring hunger. She finds them swallowing 

eggs in the chicken house, fledglings in the redbuds,

even cicadas slick with their own unsheathing. 

Down by the creek, she happens upon a black racer, 

jaw unhinged around a lifeless copperhead, the dead snake 

so large she wonders, just how the other will complete the job.

Nohl tells her to take the .22 when she goes walking, 

that it’s an hour at least to a hospital 

that could treat a strike from a timber rattler, 

but she prefers to watch the ground. 

Secretly, she studies the skins shed on the rocks 

that line the garden, runs her fingertips over scales

transformed to dust. Time was she, too, 

could have swallowed the world whole. 



He has always been better with his hands 

than his words. Never one to inscribe his own 

message into a card honoring a birthday or anniversary. 

So he was pleased to find the gift in a farmhouse 

scheduled for demolition. He was working 

with a team to tear out leaded windows 

and ancient transoms, the solid doors 

with their knobs of cloudy crystal,

but it was the items his boss deemed discard 

that held Nohl’s attention—a wooden box of skeleton 

keys on a closet shelf, clothing patterns (feathery 

and brittled) beneath a moldering pin cushion,

and a walnut-framed mirror. The size of a dinner plate,

it swiveled on a base carved with bees and flowers.

He took the looking glass home because Grace liked old things, certain

he could resilver the surface which was darkened, silt-

laced like river water. 


                                         No, she said, leave it, prefering to keep the artifact  

as it was. And still, she stares into the smoke a moment

each morning, pausing before it to touch her face, though

the glass offers no reflection.

Julie Hensley is a core faculty member of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University, where she teaches both fiction and poetry. She regularly accompanies students on study abroad writing residencies to Lisbon, Portugal. She has been awarded fellowships from Jentel Arts, Yaddo, Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, and the Tyrone Guthrie Center. Her poems and stories have appeared in dozens of journals, including Image, Indiana Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, Blueline, and Mom Egg Review. She is the author of a collection of poems, Viable (Five Oaks Press 2015), and a book of fiction, Landfall: A Ring of Stories (Ohio State University Press 2016), as well as two poetry chapbooks. The poems here are from a novel-in-poems that chronicles the courtship and marriage of a couple who builds a homestead together in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Other poems from this cycle have appeared in The Southern Review, Superstition Review, Willow Springs, Ruminate, and Rockvale Review