poem index

Larry Levis in Provincetown

Rick Hilles
(June, 2007)
This is how I am summoned from nothingness:
in faded cut offs, moonlighting at Connie's Bakery

where I keep reading Rilke to Jenny, the pastry chef,
who rolls her eyes, & blows flour into my tired face.

Beneath my limp baker's hat & stained white smock
I still wear my favorite Hawaiian shirt, the color

of bubble gum, absinthe & night. We are permitted
to choose but one companion for the great journey,

so Garcia Lorca is here with me;—we arrived last week
as "guest worker summer help." You'll be happy

to know that our work continues, as before, in Death.
Last night we finally had that conversation about

the moon, & mirrors—why they can't tell us
everything they see. We stood at an ivy-lined gate

two summers too late to deliver Stanley Kunitz our best
vermouth & news of Roethke and the other immortal poets

whose ranks by now, at long last, he's joined. Instead,
our poet of black notes took off his white tuxedo shirt

&, facing Stanley's last masterpiece, his front yard
garden, which still revises itself in preparation

for his return, Garcia Lorca revealed thumb-sized
lavender crescent moons, the eerie constellation

across his chest above the heart, the scars of bullet holes
from Franco's Guardia Civil; he told me everything—

from the faces of the firing squad to digging his own grave.
He says the landscape of his dreams has already drifted

from the Alhambra's gardens, wading pools, & almond groves
to the salt marsh at Black Fish Creek & the starlit wisteria

he affectionately calls, "These endlessly creeping vines
of strumpet braids!" And the delicate braids of challah

we braid each day rise like old lovers awakening to our touch
restored. You should see the lean, aristocratic

hands of Garcia Lorca—they’ve never been so strong!
I didn’t think such mortal progress was still possible for us.

Or that I would again be permitted access to the knowledge
that comes in a love amplified by the stirrings of the world.

And then I recognized something in the insistent, winding
taproot of an oak, which pierced me with the recognition

that is holy, & I felt the tug of gravity's widening spell.
So that even if Garcia Lorca and I are just scraping by

with all the others working for peanuts in high season,
to be alive again and living in a hot seaside town

is good as any afterlife
& probably our best chance at happiness.

From A Map of the Lost World by Rick Hilles. Copyright © 2012 by Rick Hilles. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Rick Hilles