Brenda Hillman


Griffin Poetry Prize 2014
International Winner

Book: Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire

Poet: Brenda Hillman

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Brenda Hillman reads In High Desert Under the Drones

In High Desert Under the Drones

We are western creatures; we can stand for hours in the sun. We read poetry near an Air Force base. Is poetry pointless? Maybe its points are moving, as in a fire. The enlisted men can’t hear. Practice drones fly over-head to photograph our signs; they look like hornets [Vespula] with dangly legs dipping in rose circles with life grains. They photograph shadows of the hills where coyotes’ eyes have stars. They could make clouds of white writing, cilia, knitting, soul weaving, spine without nerves, dentures of the west, volcano experiments, geometry weather breath & salt. Young airmen entering the base stare from their Hondas; they are lucky to have a job in an economy like this. The letters of this poem are also lucky to have a job for they are insects & addicts & thieves. Volcanic basalt recalls its rock star father. Creosote & sage, stubby taupe leaves greet the rain. We hold our signs up. We’re all doing our jobs. Trucks bring concrete for the landing strip they’ve just begun.

A cliff stands out in winter
Twin ravens drop fire from its eyes
My inner life is not so inner & maintains the vascular system of a desert plant. I’m grateful to Samuel Beckett & to my high school boyfriend whose drunk father yelled when we closed the door & read The Unnamable during the Tet offensive. They prepared me for this. Outside the base we see borax mines in the distance – the colors of flesh, brown, black, peach, pink, bronze. We stand there as the young airmen settle into their routine. The Gnostics noted is is difficult to travel between spheres, you’ve had to memorize the secret names & the unnamable haunts every aspect of your routine. The names grown heavier as you carry them between the spheres.

From Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire by Brenda Hillman
Copyright © 2013 by Brenda Hillman

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