About a year ago, I read a book that completely captured my attention. It was A.E. Hines’ Any Dumb Animal, published by Main Street Rag Publishing. Although Any Dumb Animal is a collection of poetry, it can also be likened to a memoir, moving through time to reveal moments of Hines’ personal life story. I was excited by the mixture of craft and accessibility in Hines’ writing. Many of his poems lean toward the narrative as well as the confessional. The result is that reading each poem feels like you’re being let in on a secret that has the potential to change your personal outlook of the world.
I’m far from alone in recognizing Hines’ talents. Any Dumb Animal received Honorable Mention in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2022 Brockman-Campbell Book contest and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book award. His work has also appeared in some of the best journals of our time such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Review, Rhino, American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Greensboro Review, Ninth Letter, The Missouri Review, I-70 Review, and Tar River Poetry, among other places.
He splits his time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Medellín, Colombia. Last week, I reached out and asked if he would share one of his poems.
Waiting for the Diagnosis
Lying with the man I love,
I muse about a farm
high in the Colombian mountains
where terraced slopes of coffee
meander valley to peak
and disappear into mist.
There’s still time, I tell him,
to plant a thousand bamboo trees,
watch them leap into the sky,
to nail bat houses to the trunks
and hear the flitter of webbed-wings,
to hear the night monkeys
winding their way in the dark,
leaping branch to branch.
Let the shadows come
and wrap us
in their slippery shawls—
there’s still time to dig
our fingers into the black
to taste the prickly fruit,
to believe we can grow old
listening to the bats shriek,
and night monkeys howl,
to bamboo trunks
rubbing together in the breeze,
their insistent music
like the luxury
of creaking old bones.
I asked A.E. Hines if he would share the inspiration for writing Waiting for the Diagnosis, and here’s what he wrote:
“When Any Dumb Animal first came out, a couple of friends contacted me after reading this poem to inquire about my health. “What’s going on?” one asked. As I told my friend, I’m fine now. A few years ago, I did have one of those surprise health issues that stops you in your tracks, and leaves you worrying and waiting for the days and weeks it takes to get into doctor visits, to schedule and receive various test results. That gap in time was the genesis for this poem. I recall coming home after a particularly invasive test and wrote the title in my notebook. At the time, I was in a brand new relationship with the man who would later become my husband. We were still very new, and it was my first serious relationship after ending a twenty year marriage. Like all new couples, we were making plans for the future. But as middle-aged (and previously divorced) adults, we also understood time isn’t always on one’s side, and plans don’t always work out. Growing old (and doing it with someone you love) really is a luxury. This poem lives in the gap, that anxious moment of waiting. Of not knowing if plans will work out. But also in hope that they will. PS: As for me, so far, so good!”
Many thanks to A.E. Hines for sharing the background story of his poem Waiting for the Diagnosis. Just this week, he’s had new work published in the summer issue of The Southern Review and online at South Florida Poetry Journal. And don’t forget to order Any Dumb Animal from the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore, Powell’s or Amazon.
In my next post, I’ll share a writing exercise based on Waiting for the Diagnosis. If you’re not already subscribed, you can make sure you never miss a post by subscribing here: