The HyperTexts

Roger Hecht (1926-1990)

Roger Hecht published five books of poetry in his lifetime: 27 Poems, Signposts, Parade of Ghosts, Burnt Offerings, and a limited edition of his selected poems entitled A Quarreling of Dust. His poetry has appeared in national literary magazines, including The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Quarterly Review of Literature, Sewanee Review, Choice, Minnesota Review, and Voyages where he served as an Advisory Editor. He was educated at Bard and at Kenyon College. James Wright wrote, “Mr. Hecht's … book, Parade of Ghosts, which spans four centuries, is simultaneously a long poem and a sequence of single poems individually realized. The author disappears inside his own poems and there addresses himself, through a spare and precise diction, to the complex drama of certain characters who are at once their own highly individualized selves and the embodiment of critical moments of American history. It is odd—and oddly reassuring—to read a new work of poetry written by an adult and offered without compromise to adult readers.”

Roger Hecht was the brother of the well-regarded American formalist poet Anthony Hecht.

The Literary Estate of Roger Hecht is offering Roger's books to the public for only the rounded-off cost of packing and shipping. Information on ordering books and an interview of Roger Hecht on tape can be found at the bottom of this page.

A Dead Young Woman

She was so beautiful that men would stand
At the astonished edge of awe
And terrified of what they saw
As if they viewed a thing not real
Captured in flesh without a flaw.
Yet she was prisoned in the undermind.

Who would have recognized her had she lived?
For pain sealed fast upon her eyes
The stare of one who sometimes sees
But does not smile or cry or feel
Either the need of Paradise
Or the need of love and of being loved.

Waiting for nothing half a life long,
Nothing occurred. And so she died
Alone, motionless, petrified
By shadows she had made her meal.
Now there is nothing left to hide
In earth of one not ever old or young

But only beautiful and firm as the crust
Glazing a sickle hill of snow.
And men know no more than men can know
Of terror and of terror's zeal
To shred the figment night and fragment day.
Her loveliness was her own cost.

To know is to suffer. I would prefer
Never to have seen her laugh
Or fuss her hair or try to move
Away from phantoms of the real.
For memory prisons alive
Her ghost, but nothing, nothing like unto her.

Originally published in 27 Poems, Alan Swallow, 1966
Reprinted by permission of the author's literary estate.

On The Way To Damascus

                       ACTS, 9.

So to be possessed on the public road,
Tossed to the ground and on the ground to shake
Out of control for nothing, for no sake,
And not to feel the presence of one hand
Trying to comfort or acknowledge me,
And so to shake until each wrangling sense
Blots in blank sleep,—
Do the damned
Know the long desire to damn God?
So did I meet that animal, myself.

Did I wake to the day or into sleep
Or into dream or trance?
Around me blazed a lightfall bright as spray
Till light itself was all.
The voice inside the light said: "Kneel and pray
For more than your mere self. Once you stand
You will become my bait to catch the soul
Of every man that aches to live away
From what I am and from my servant, you,
You that now are Saul and Paul to be.
Of all that can be known love is most terrible."

Midnight at noon—where? Nowhere?. What am I
That all the dark should capture me?
What keeps me from the host of men?
O, my God, am I myself again?

Originally published in Signposts, The Swallow Press, 1970
Reprinted by permission of the author's literary estate.

Father And Son

THE FATHER:      When we went West we went for gold
                                And more dominion. The wide land held
                                Its body forth in perfect pride
                                Of bison, pony, bear, snake, bird,

                                Indian, fruit and the yawning stream.
                                The promised land?  Or Adam's dream?
                                Or was this savage lavishness
                                A foretaste of God's Paradise?

                                We found some gold. We killed with it
                                Since there's a lust or appetite
                                That is not fed by the yield of land
                                Or love—the hunger for command

                                That is not ever gratified.
                                For that we wrestled until we died
                                Felling the country half by half
                                In preparation for the grave.

THE SON:            We with your legacy travelled East
                                To purchase the appointed taste—
                                Tapestries, tables, books, beds, knives,
                                Teachers and manners for our lives—

                                To house the desert and populate
                                The last romance of man's estate.
                                For certainty that money would come
                                To fulfill our design, we halved our homes

                                And auctioned what we had to sell.
                                We planned and built a state of soul:
                                Trees and wide lawns now decorate
                                The graveyard guarded by a gate.

Originally published in Parade of Ghosts, The Lightning Tree, 1976
Reprinted by permission of the author's literary estate.

Burnt Offerings

Now all night long I hear some dead Jews calling,
Calling, calling someone, maybe me.
No, it is no nightmare. All that bawling
Is only what you might call history.

That ended long ago. I thought them lost
Or saved and in a haven far away.
Now they return, each one a pilgrim ghost
Come begging me for what I do not know.

Dislodged from camps they'd made their ark and covenant,
They visited America between
The deaths they lived and the unseen
Future they did their damnedest to prevent.

With miles and miles of tape I interviewed
Hundreds, hundreds of them. Always the same,
The horrible and same I came to know:
"Please help me. No, you can't. Remove my crime.

For God's sake tell me why I did not die."
The same details. The crying. The fierce hope
For death I could not help them with. A lie.
I lie again: I swear death's no escape.

I tap a cigarette. It starts to burn.
And as I smoke I see a crying face
Wheedle me to murder. Will I? Please.
Again I fail them. And again I mourn
Creatures I could not kill and can't erase
Half of a life since those now memories
And I confronted human helplessness
And something twisted, some grace or disgrace
In wanting to be ashes in no urn.
I smoke. I have no answers. And no ease.

Originally published in Burnt Offerings, The Lightning Tree, 1979
Reprinted by permission of the author's literary estate.

The Literary Estate of Roger Hecht is offering Roger's books to the public for only the rounded-off cost of packing and shipping. Information on ordering books appears at the bottom of this page. There are limited supplies available. Please be aware that if a title runs out before it can be deleted from this website's list, another Roger Hecht book will be substituted in place of your original request. You will receive notification of this substitution with the book(s) you receive.

Please DO NOT send SASE packing envelopes or stamps. Please send a note or a copy of this page with the names of the titles you wish to purchase, along with your address, to the address below. Please make all checks out to: Riptide Books Distributor, P.O. Box 279, Stuyvesant Station, NY NY 10009. Books by Roger Hecht that are available, by title:

Signposts, The Swallow Press, 1970, paperback - $3.00
Signposts, The Swallow Press, 1970, hardcover - $4.00
Parade of Ghosts, The Lightning Tree, paperback - $3.00 
Parade of Ghosts, The Lightning Tree, hardcover - $3.50
A Quarreling of Dust, privately printed edition of Selected Poems, hardcover - $4.00

Roger Hecht Interview on Tape: A cassette tape of an interview conducted by Wade Newman with Roger Hecht is also available from Somers Rocks Press. The tape runs about 70 minutes and includes Roger Hecht reciting a number of his poems. To order, please send $10.00 plus S&H of $1.50 to the address to follow. Please make checks out to Somers Rocks Press. NY Residents, please add $.83 Sales Tax for each tape. Arthur Mortensen, Publisher, Somers Rocks Press, 505 Court Street #4N, Brooklyn, NY 11231.

The HyperTexts