Leveler Poetry Journal
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To Eat a Doughnut in the Dark, Alone

Alternatively, to be a hawk – no, to be a man,

calm as a building,

on whom the hawk rests.

From whose golden forearm

the hawk ascends.

Heather McNaugher

levelheaded: To Eat a Doughnut in the Dark, Alone

Short poems like Heather McNaugher’s giddily titled “To Eat a Doughnut in the Dark, Alone” often pack a punch impossible for longer, more ruminative works. In these five short lines (six including the title), McNaugher guides us from a tongue-in-cheek image of loneliness to a moment of unadulterated majesty. First, we are made to laugh at the seeming arbitrariness of the initial image. Why does McNaugher begin with a doughnut? Why is this speaker alone in the dark? But as the poem moves on, a philosophy of imagination develops, and the speaker becomes, not just the hawk, but the man “From whose golden forearm / the hawk ascends.”

It is interesting that the speaker decides against becoming the hawk. If the hawk is the poem’s “golden” image of majesty, McNaugher’s speaker prefers to be a caretaker. The speaker prefers to stand “calm as a building” and release this image upon the world in all its beautiful, dangerous, and imaginative glory. In short, the speaker prefers to be an artist.

Then what about the doughnut? How can a deep-fried piece of dough with its limited associative value factor into the speaker’s fantasy? Well, the development of the speaker’s fantasy is also the development of McNaugher’s fantasy. While the hawk is the metaphorical creation of the man “on whom the hawk rests,” and this “man” is the creation of the speaker, the speaker is also the creation of the poet. The “doughnut” alerts us to the fact that McNaugher is creating something instead of relaying information that already exists. Thus, this tiny poem becomes a wonderful, multi-dimensional tract on the limitless potential of art and the imagination.

– The Editors