When This Painted Horse Burns
everything flames. Shots blossom in the barn.
Aster bits, spreading creepers make it
hard to tell day lilies from time-lapse faces.
Carpet of azalea, baby bedrooms,
threshing floors, you know what must be undone
this spring-torn winter.
So shoulder. So suffice. So stitch your cutter impulse,
drop your superhuman sleeve and try not to die
in transplant. This is one bouquet
that will not get out of bed.
When This Freight Train Burns
the names will stop hitchhiking the coast highway.
The spasm in my inner thigh will cease.
Cumulus like dented anvils will come close for the kill.
Everyone knows when the unmarried neighbor is alone.
She leaves the windows cracked and valuables on display
in a kind of pawn shop aesthetic these junkies are used to.
Deer crossing, dearest off-ramp. The dead already remember
the knife-grass, the way chicory forgives another injury,
the way concrete allows the rain its insistent applause,
forgiving its white palms and filthy nails.
When This Glacier Burns
you’ll know there’s always something stem cells won’t reveal.
Even the imagination can play the tyrant.
Building monuments to itself with its arm saluting…
salute, solution. Salud. Is this the root of your inner
gorilla? Is this the latex mask you pull over your mouth?
The costumes my father constructed for me lasted
longer than he did as a father. There’s your animal.
There’s your natural history. Of course I like zoos, but I also
like the idea of clouds climbing mountains. The milk river a result
of something dying on high. An eroding slope. Brutal spade.
When This Isinglass Burns
we’ll say it’s done to rags. Done with mirrors,
this valediction. So let me melt. Let the wood burning
stove become itself: a tapping wrench, an overturned boat.
Making a martyr of yourself is hardly an excuse
for sleeping on hardtack. For swinging the adze and for thinking
you can swing an adze. For making like Odysseus,
petitioning Calypso, envying choughs their business
with the sea. You say your heart is not ironwood,
that you do not wish for winter figs,
that you only long for a world of men to kill a few.
When This Motion Picture Burns
the knife-grass will be right back where it started.
The weeds will live once more in prim obscurity.
Dictionaries everywhere will breathe synonyms for relief,
and antonyms for breathe.
We’ll know the etymology for steely knives, which is Steely Dan,
meaning Old Bull Lee, meaning they just can’t kill the beast.
Look Professor, things could get better. You could be rolling
drunks on the subway, or surviving New Orleans. You could go home
to a wife who drinks bourbon and children who stare at you
as if you were a jar of dirty needles on the doorstep.
When This Fever Tree Burns
we’ll lie in the not-quite-dark, in the hiss of guttered wax.
From the midden of memory, let me remind you of Seville.
On the Plaza de los Naranjas, agosto, our anniversary,
you wore the cotton dress with blue prints, and the fan
tacked to our wall was that tactile. At last we can admit:
melancholy makes cowards of us all. This faultless linen—
rain catcher, dream catcher. The walled quarter, this room,
someone singing a song outside, badly. Beautifully.
Like moonlight on cello strings, I’ll reach for your face—tears.
Like glasses of cold sangria sweating in our hands.
When This Damselfly Burns
the cottonwood sky will spark. Charcoal
makes the best soil. The darkest. I’ll reach down
into the concrete and touch its rigid frame.
Wonder at what crushes us. Fighter planes
in the sky now, every day. Dogs going off like sirens.
Every crossword clue is drouth.
Have you wondered what’s beneath the tarp?
What Europeans think of cul-de-sacs? Of iron railings?
Do you suppose these crows enjoy tormenting us?
In the end, there’s only one way to draw these clouds.
apocryphaltext Vol. 3
Sean Patrick Hill is a freelance writer, naturalist, and teacher living in Portland, Oregon. He earned his MA in Writing from Portland State University, where he won the Burnham Graduate Award. He received a grant from Regional Arts and Culture Council and residencies from Montana Artists Refuge, Fishtrap, and the Oregon State University Trillium Project. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Exquisite Corpse, elimae, diode, Alba, My Name Is Mud, In Posse Review, Willow Springs, RealPoetik, New York Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Juked, The Corduroy Mtn, Redactions, and Quarter After Eight. His blog site is theimaginedfield.blogspot.com.
7 poems by sean patrick hill