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Sample Poems by Nick Hilbourn

Oppenheimer dreams of an end to seeing 

An angel emerges from a cooling tower. The rocks speak
to each other after all the people become grass. Lost keys float
to the ocean surface and take the shapes of dead bodies. No one sees
the sun rise and it doesn’t notice. The other half of the day
never answers. The beginning has never been a question,
but a space of wonder. The smallest things burrow
deeper and deeper to escape the Indigo Taxidermist mulling
in the world’s corner.
And if the fog opens up and the stars seem
to approach the bone-white glass fields
on the prairies…
A long time ago wind moved through teeth.
Its racket troubled soupy quiets until they gave up
and screamed a song. The smallest things only slept
and waited.
But if a wolf howls or a calf is born this night
and someone asks for a stone to be laid in a particular
direction in order to remember everything in a specific way…
A long time ago thoughts troubled these woods in the birth of darkness,
speaking through the lips of soil, unrecorded by the visage of
The Beast God: the cold masks of trees, the limp containers of cloud farmers,
their mounds of rich dark-brown carpeting, their dry stalks of vanished equity
burrowing deeper and deeper.

MarShawn McCarrel baptized in the River Jordan 

My fingers stretch to the eyes and the river
curls around my waist to meet us joined at the wrist:
A womb is a moment of space in water where
a god creates the water and the water creates a god
and life erases itself in the movement. The paradise
of a single moment. Heaven seems to emerge from the joy
of just trying to stay alive until 
If your hair is like grass
the loud and tiresome plods above. Always rolling
over themselves—digging, clawing—growing larger, wrapping around 
the infinite blood in the hidden ventricle: an emptiness 
eliminating the fragile nothing of the spirit. I would love
to live in the form of my mother’s voice.
If your entire body softens as your cheek
Your warmth travels through my palm. Any movement
with this divine momentum is of a kind and all only of a kind.
I am disappearing into the dark smile of another’s
hands whose scent I will recognize as my own.
If your eyes open and see 
An Elijah will look like my father does. A Jesus as my uncle.
My body will be buried next to them
and my kind, which has always been a recurring heaven,
and my heaven, ruined but consistent, which has always been
a kingdom of the dead, where thousands of nameless
raise their hands in welcome, will say “I am here, too.”
If your fingers loosen and grip the current
The water questions me. 
In the way it gathers about my arms,
as if to hold me and bid me stay,
the water appears to questions me
and I have always translated its ripples as impatience.
If I sigh and my elbows lock 
I feel an urgency to move, but where?
Not for anything should I leave. Stay where you are, too.
This moment is strange unlike any other, but we will answer it
if we would just stay still and listen, then it will come. 
It sounds like digging.
Like the insistent mumbling of the soil. 
We will not die if
Not much else is said here.
Everything that surrounds us is us.

Erasure and Isadora Duncan

In a final scene, your friend Mary Desti stands on the curb
as your lover, Benoît, drives away with you in the passenger seat. 
Her hand stretches to heaven, worried that you’d take cold without a coat,
which is why she accidentally gave you a portent
  …je vais …
Backfire from the car occludes your epitaph. 
Mary blushes, thinking you’ve said, …amour
Before you left, she begged you to dress warmer in an open-air Amilcar. 
You accepted her scarf with a loose smile, wrapping it about your neck
like tangled bedsheets. Audacious shape of a long-tailed widowbird
forming in the wind. The male, that is. (Difficult to translate what it says.) 
Benoît, having built the chariot, realizes the weight of the moment
as the fabric lost in your slender throat tautly twists its sudden limbs
in attitude derrière and the widowbird takes shape, carries you away,
then loosens you to the frozen sea rushing below. 
The charioteer is a mortal, unwillingly become a member
of your most intimate self. Eyes like the waters
of the Seine, where you looked for an apology that it couldn’t recall
your children, or their floating bodies and hopeless nanny. 
Their moment of loosening
unmarked. So, you took refuge in a conspiracy of winds
by the Tyrrhenian and found comfort. 
All this rolls into the limbs,
thrusting to the head of the cavernous proscenium in quiet submersion. 
Eyes become hands, colliding with themselves out of desperation
to ask questions. The stage dark and cool as the bed
of your Patrick and Deirdre will always be. 
Now tightly rolled into a silk scarf designed by Chatov. 
Something of de Kooning’s reverse synecdoche,
landscape’s belonging inscribed on the object of its origin.
The slight protrusion in the throat sinks with increased pressure
as the smallest things become the beginning, wrenching dry
your liquefying neck.
Mary misheard you. 
The a absorbed by the m,
the final t nearly lost in trepidations of a nervous combustion,
but stubbornly fixed to the passive presence of the r,
holding it in place. 
The softest sounds defining it all.
This was a prophetic age:
everything contingent
everything astonishing