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Brenda Hillman, 1951

          —kept losing self control
     but how could one lose the self
  after reading so much literary theory?
The shorter “i” stood under the cork trees,
     the taller “I” remained rather passive;
  the brendas were angry at the greed, angry
that the trees would die, had lost interest
  in the posturing of the privileged,

   the gaps between can’t & won’t . . .
  Stood outside the gate of permissible
      sound & the wind came soughing
through the doubt debris
(soughing comes from sw~gh—to resound . . .
echo actually comes from this also—)
    we thought of old Hegel across
 the sea—the Weltgeist—& clouds

went by like the bones of a Kleenex . . .
        it’s too late for countries
but it’s not too late for trees . . .
   & the wind kept soughing
   with its sound sash, wind with
         its sound sash, increasing
bold wind with its sound sash,
         increasing bold—

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.

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Brenda Hillman, 1951

                               A hawk skims the exterior
of the interior hill—    piercing non-syllables
    you cannot dream—;    its sound is extreme,
         red rick-rack on a hill,    red’s arid
shadow on the other side,
  chattering with dead men in dead books,
shattering with red men in red nooks,
         no more anger than he’s
    supposed to do, but
angry enough, check-check-check,
      not angry enough to not to, & who
are we to judge at the edges, & where,
         who throw money at death
         who throw money at death
         who throw money at death
         who throw money at death
         who throw money at death
         who throw money at death

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.

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Brenda Hillman, 1951

               a prose ballad
 

i only held it once but thought about it often as you think about those times when your life had stood both loaded & unloaded

One brother knew of its existence having seen it where it languished in the famed green storage unit from which it had been transferred to the bank-box but we never quite knew when

Information our father had & something he was squeamish about or proud of at the same time the way Protestants are about genitals

We believed it was a Luger—maybe taken from a soldier—in the War our father trained for but didn’t ever get to because he was wounded in the knee—“sustained” is the word they use—sustained a wound—in infantry maneuvers before his men were mostly killed after D-Day—

When his ashes in the desert grave were lying we took the weapon from the bank-box

i put it quickly in my handbag to get it past the teller—the holster was the smoothest leather—brown & heavy —the yawning L-shape of the Luger Google says Georg Luger designed in 1898 —the holster smooth as the jackets of German soldiers in the movies & what had they done to make the cowhide smooth like that & what had they done to the cow

We thought of burying it in the desert but if you Google burying a firearm it changes to a search for buying a firearm

You can also look up how to load a semi-automatic weapon on YouTube where a white man with thick hands & a wedding band shows you how to check for rounds in what order & tells you how to handle it with your dominant hand

We couldn’t take it to the cops even in my handbag though Arizona is open carry & you can take it anywhere in public but the cops can shoot you if you take your gun to their station

One young Tucson cop named Matt agreed to come to us & checked the magazine & said it was unloaded— looked upon us with excruciatingly mild pity — said this relic might be worth some money & stroked it the way some boys do

i couldn’t tell what the brothers were thinking— it felt like a tragedy but reversible—our father’s ghost stood like a tall working summer like Hamlet’s father’s ghost appearing only in the day & good naturedly telling people not do the killing but still trying to control the actions of the play

You can think about ghostly word weapons nonstop Let’s just take a shot at it She was going great guns He loved her but couldn’t quite pull the trigger Better to just bite the bullet Kill an hour or two

& for some reason maybe sorrow for our father’s power/lack of power i felt a twinge when my brother whisked the tiny heavy out of there —my life had stood a secret little hiddenly shameful semi-automatic firearm & When at night Our good day done i guard my Master’s head

My younger brother sold it for $600 at a Tucson gun shop—one of those outfits where the master paces behind the counter offering advice on collecting & is so proud of his stash

It was a Tuesday i think—a Tuesday inside history where America is lost—& what should we do with the cash

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.

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Brenda Hillman, 1951

          We had a grief
we didn’t understand while
          standing at the edge of
    some low scrub hills as if
humans were extra
    or already gone;—

what had been in us before?
          a life that asks for mostly
    wanting freedom to get things done
in order to feel less
          helpless about the end
    of things alone—;

when i think of time on earth,
    i feel the angle of gray minutes
          entering the medium days
    yet not “built-up”:: our
work together: groups, the willing
    burden of an old belief,

          & beyond them love, as of
    a great life going like fast
creatures peeling back marked
    seeds, gold-brown integuments
    the color time
will be when we are gone—

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.

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Brenda Hillman, 1951

Turns out bacteria communicate in color.
     They warn each other in teal
  or celadon & humans assign
meaning to this, saying they are distressed
      or full of longing. The wood rat
    makes a nest of H’s; it hoards
the seven tiny silences. Crows in the pine
can count specific faces like writers
    who feel their art has been ignored.
             My father spent his life thinking
         about money though he knew
      it causes most of this stupid violence,

& he thought of me as a sensible person;
      you have the chemical for sensible, he said.
There was no tragedy between us,
            unlike how poor Joyce wrote
        that his daughter turned away
from that battered cabman’s face, the world.
    i didn’t turn away because i don’t know
where it is, it is all over, & when it seems
     pure nothingness has come to pass,
i know another animal prepares itself
         nationless, not sensible;
            thinking of it helps a little bit—

This poem originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2016. Copyright © 2016 Brenda Hillman. Used with permission of the author.