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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 2, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I’ve been working on and off for about a decade with a procedural form inspired by a Jena Osman essay; the form is six words per line, twenty-four lines. (I try to be strict but sometimes give or take a word or two and consider hyphenated words to be one.) I have used it for some ecopoetic pieces and also for pieces about odd emotions. The challenge is to put a lot of existence in a short space, which is what interests me in poetry in general. This poem originated at dawn when I heard an owl in a Berkeley treetop; I was thinking about the commute of a friend who has to do a lot of work in the public sphere. I often think about non-human energy and life that goes in and out of consciousness simultaneously with historical events. The poem also refers to Walter Benjamin’s ideas about history as well as a sense that thought and light are both something and nothing.”
—Brenda Hillman

Micro-minutes on Your Way to Work

Days are unusual. The owl sends
           out 5 zeroes from the pines
           plus one small silver nothing. Where
            	do they float? Maybe out to
           sea, where jellyfish are aging left
& right. They have some nerve.
           Today, no new wars, probably. No
big button. The owl could be
           your scholar of trapped light or
Walter Benjamin who writes a storm
blows in from paradise. Thinking through
           these things each week, you cross 
 
the bridge: gold coils, fog, feelings…
           syllables also can grow younger like
  those jellyfish. You bring your quilt
           of questions in the car. At
work, you’ll have to be patient
           at the risky enterprise of talking
to other people;  so little progress
           in this since the Pleistocene. Mostly,
though, you’re calm when traveling: silver
nothing, moving right & left; day
           releasing the caged stars; one thought
mixed with no-thought, packed with light…
 
                                            	for MK

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman is the author of ten poetry collections, including Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2012 and currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

i.

    —& humans walked to the edge of the sand
  through a bank of verbena & fog;  
     they thought they’d never get over
the deaths, but they were starting to. Worry
     about money rested in their phones. Talk of
 candidates had stalled. Some sang. Grays of

   

poem

—So, one by one I pull the lice from your red hair.
One by one I try to split them with my fingernails;

no use, they hold on
as they were taught to. Still, they glisten
like heavenly sparks in the morning light
of the bathroom.

I have to pull extra hard on many of them,
use the

poem
A left margin watches the sea floor approach
 
It takes 30 million years 
It is the first lover
 
More saints     for Augustine's mother

A girl in red shorts shakes Kafka's
The Trial free of some sand
 
A left margin watches the watcher from Dover
 
After the twentieth century     these cliffs
Looked