Blackbox Manifold

Issue 13: Alec Hershmann

Letter of Allowance

What do you mean bathtub?

Wasn’t there always Niagra,

a hair drifting in a canyon,

the slab-lights sheer upon

one another in tectonic air,

great gullies of breath

through highfalutin mountains

and dreadlocks of stone?

This letter makes one fewer

on her head, like a needle-exchange

between conifers, a single floret

in the round caption of

a cruciferous vegetable.

I, botanical. I, table.

I, paper-square for mouth.

A Holiday

My hand glances brief

                                                   denominations of flesh

in a crowded room

                                                   weaving toward exit

where speakers wrap us

                                                    a dance receding

from back to chest

                                                    slowly on its tilt

honey spread by amplitude

                                                    my throat a muzzy stem

of red I rub

                                                    the stranger’s palm

against the snow-light

                                                    I can see myself turning

my back on the window

                                                    the after-glance

like foam between waves

                                                    to leave the season

its liabilities

                                                    on the one hand a balcony

strung by lights

                                                    and on the other

a door repeats itself

                                                    into a river dimly

a ripple of geese

                                                    traversing a thermal

to make the letter

                                                    they approximate

the fingers flocking 

                                                    my heart

they curl in welcome

In Due Time

I felt my teeth take root. Thank you

hardened on a sorry look.

They used plaster,

and a face-shaped cup

into which—sullen—a few ripples

responded. I shimmered there

in filth, a pair of gray hands on my hips,

pursed lips; my see-saw seeing saw

I meant business

and played nonchalant,

like a squatter said: “Oh, you live here?”

And so the mask fit sloppily.

I’m a shade I was thinking then said, “I’m a shade,”

ruining the mouth and tasting the plaster.

That’s okay though, according to the wetnesses

that predispose a cheek to slime

or a rock to moss.

Price Check

The fabric mountain looms on

a field of button mushrooms.

There is a new notion of burning,

a new notion of mole check, too.

To approach the warden makes you

a child, and gold scrolls end

in a fringe all down the exit hall.

Our friend Moss. Look at him here,

and timid, a steam merchant

playing it cool, while in my pocket,

a dollar gets converted into cinders.

I reach for the broom, and gratefully,

for without piecemeal, the lost

teeth are graves surrounding

a fiefdom of the dentures.

When I wrote this, I had to nurse

a sear in my pettiest finger,

with ice, intermittently, and so

the periods come essentially at

the points of exclamation.

Alec Hershman lives in St. Louis where he teaches at Stevens—the Institute of Business and Art. He has received awards from the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts, The Jentel Foundation, The St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, and The Institute for Sustainable Living, Art, and Natural Design. His work appears in various literary magazines and online at