Virginia Hartman

A Present

I would never ask for,
the questions you have placed
in my hand.
But there they are.
They are still yours to
answer, but like the
chick I say I hatched
for the science fair,
my grandfather, my parents, and I,
bent over the warming light
in my suburban bedroom,
watching the tiny horned beak
struggle its way out
peck by exhausted peck…
I say I hatched the chick,
but really it hatched itself.
I just provided the warmth.
And likewise will I close
my hand around your questions
and muster all the warmth within me
for you to grow
until you break them open
from the inside.

after Denise Levertov


Virginia Hartman has published work in the Hudson Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Liars League NYC, Potomac Review, Delmarva Review and the Washingtonian. Her work has been anthologized in Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women (Paycock Press), and, with Barbara Esstman, she co-edited a literary anthology called A More Perfect Union: Poems and Stories about the Modern Wedding (St. Martin’s Press). Her writing has been supported by the Sewanee Writer’s Conference and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and her stories have been shortlisted for the New Letters prize, the Tennessee Williams Festival Prize, and the Dana Awards. She is on the creative writing faculty at George Washington University and has taught at American University, where she received her MFA. She also teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and facilitates a weekly poetry group at Miriam’s Kitchen in DC. Her website: