“So what do we have now in its place?”
In place of prudence this tumble of gulls
and vultures effervescing from bulldozers
along archipelagoes of landfills.
In place of justice, hybrid tea roses
and cockapoos, puggles, labradoodles.
In place of temperance, pop-up surveys,
monogrammed collars, logoed zipper pulls.
In place of courage, postal holidays.
In place of faith, profiling, surveillance,
data mining, intelligence satellites.
In place of hope, adjustable-rate loans,
spin-offs, takeovers, derivatives, bailouts.
In place of love, speed limits in school zones,
reflective vests, flashing yellow warning lights.
“You love anybody yet?”
Which one you counting on love to transform:
you or your lover? This lover love you back?
Figured out how to stick to one at a time?
Find familiar sweeter than exotic?
Always prefer what you got to what you don’t?
Believe you’re the exception to the rule?
Think things’ll get easier at some point?
Sure this time love will prove too big to fail?
Storybook, destined for a happy ending?
Not planning to get old like the rest of us?
Botched it before, but you know what you’re doing
this time? Have a backup plan in place?
How much more inventive will your lover’s
treatment of “fidelity” be than yours?
“What happened to the suburbs, the exurbs, the shopping malls, and the edge cities?”
That one year in high school Kevin Wilton
bought a Gremlin that didn’t look like much
(had been wrecked, body didn’t quite sit on
the frame), and didn’t so much roll as lurch,
but got us to track practice and the mall
and once a double date (I remember
his date but not mine). He was tall,
strong, broad-shouldered, but (I learned much later)
his father still raped him and beat his sister.
One time, only once, he drove us backward,
mall to freeway, by the off-ramp, faster
than I’d have driven even faced forward.
No cars were exiting, we lived. Too late now
to pay him that gas money I still owe.
“Go back to what?”
Go back to storm warning and rain delay.
Go back to parchment, papyrus, vellum.
Go back to land line and gravel driveway.
Go back to blent, unbent light, pre-prism.
Go back to samekh, yodh, zayin, aleph,
great auk, ivory-billed, passenger pigeon.
Go back to cave painting and petroglyph.
Go back to mask, to God from the machine.
Go back to compacted cosmos, the size
of a penguin’s egg, steadied by webbed feet,
stayed from snow, against God’s belly feathers.
Go back to left hand does know what the right.
Go back to stage fright, recurring nightmare,
back to Houston, we’ve had a problem here.
“That something has to come undone?”
Or that, of what in fact did come undone,
we have to tell ourselves it needed to?
The same way I say I had no part in
the things I’ve done but can’t believe I’d do?
Or that, because we think we’re better than
others and could teach them a thing or two,
some blemish we’d managed to keep hidden
from ourselves will force its way into view?
Or that the something now coming undone,
much bigger than we are, includes all our
trivial undonenesses in its one
vast undoing, entails that we ourselves are
undone already, no matter what we do,
and undone ultimately, through and through?
—H. L. Hix
H.L. Hix’s recent books include a poetry collection, Rain Inscription (Etruscan Press, June 2017), an art/poetry anthology, Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2014), and a translation of selected poems by Estonian peasant poet Juhan Liiv, Snow Drifts, I Sing (Guernica Editions, 2013), translated in collaboration with Jüri Talvet.