NEA Literature Fellowships

David Hernandez

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(2011 - Poetry)

Fooling the Buffalo

A buffalo could outrun a lion, could outlast
a horse. Take a bullet in his shaggy head,
a buffalo could, and still roam the prairie. 
Make the world rumble with his brothers,
jump as one jumped over a low wall
to escape the auction.  Down an alley
and headbutt open a door, this buffalo could,
and stand majestic in a dressing room,
to gaze at the buffalo gazing at the buffalo
standing before a mirror.  Could grunt,
could adore his reflection, this mammoth
beast, coffee-brown and goateed. 
Indians would hunt for buffalo with a bow,
the strings made from the muscle of buffalo. 
Or they hurried a herd toward a cliff,
a wooly waterfall that tumbled and bellowed.
Or ice, they coaxed the animal toward ice
to skid and stumble, easy target that bristled
with arrows.  Duped toward death, the buffalo
bled on the valley floor, across the frozen
lake.  Fooled toward love, the buffalo
licked the mirror, haloed in lights. 
Could snort, could low, and be buffaloed.

David Hernandez's third collection of poetry, Hoodwinked, won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and is forthcoming from Sarabande Books in August 2011. His other collections include Always Danger (SIU Press, 2006), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press, 2003). He has also authored two Young Adult novels, No More Us for You and Suckerpunch, both published by HarperCollins. Hernandez lives in Long Beach and is married to writer Lisa Glatt. For more information, visit his website at

Photo courtesy of David Hernandez

Author's Statement

How strange, how fitting, that a few days after I turned a doorknob and it came off in my hand, I received the phone call informing me that I was awarded a fellowship from the NEA. I held it in my hand, stunned--my cell phone after I had hung up, the doorknob the week before. It is a tremendous honor to receive such a generous gift, and I'm grateful to the judges for their belief in my poems. You have given me a boost of confidence. You have afforded me time to work on my fourth collection. You have opened up doors ahead.