Sous Rature



Brenda Hillman





A man says he doesn’t understand my poetry

Frankly i’m not surprised

I learned to write in a hot desert during the cold war
We did air raid drills in a schoolyard full of thick-skinned
    ornamental oranges

We saw dioramas of a fall-out shelter where a mother wearing a light
    print housedress served t.v. dinners on aluminum trays to children
    wearing saddle shoes

The man says poetry should be simple enough
    for school girls to understand

But sir, school girls understand everything

Nancy Drew was in love with the obstacle not the clue

My near-sighted eyes had adjusted to reading & by 1962
letters had developed fuzzy antennas like tarantulas or modernism

The psyche rises like mist from things, writes Heraclitus

Sir, when i think of poetry keeping you alive i know 
    you were entered by incomprehensible light
    in the hour of lemon & water

& the great wound of the world has slipped a code
    into your shoe

A poem doesn’t fail when you set your one good wing on the ground 

It is the wing
It doesn’t abandon you 





april moon

When i can’t sleep
i count backward
from 10, 000

Numbers keep
the letters out
Yes numbers keep
the phrases out

(though sometimes
awake in the braised
fog i think the names

of slightly missing
ones at dawn)


april moon

The non-you enters
the you, & morning

also has a dusk,
a texture behind
the hermit thrush,

italic ampersands
in the brush,
&&& &

a form of now
alright all right
a form of then
so bright so bright
















Photos: (l) Audrey Marrs by Reuters News Service and (r) hermit thrush by Jason Finley