Tuesday Apr 23

HillSean-creditBartNagel Sean Hill is the author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor (U of Georgia P, 2008). His awards include fellowships and grants from Cave Canem, the Bush Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, the University of Wisconsin, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Jerome Foundation, and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, DIAGRAM, the Oxford American, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tin House, and numerous other journals, and in several anthologies including Black Nature and Villanelles. His second collection of poetry, Dangerous Goods, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2014. More information can be found here.

for Eric Black

Big Ben's struck five again.
Why am I here at the Millennium Wheel,
the Eye of London? I don't want to queue-up—
won't queue-up, but I'm here.
London is lousy with old buildings,
statues, parks, theaters, and museums.
The Tate Britain houses a piece by Richard Dadd—
a nineteenth century Brit.
Killed his father and lived a long life
in asylums painting fairy landscapes.

The soundtrack for this solitary sojourn
quiet and incidental like the puzzle piece
found face down when I disembarked at Heathrow—
a dreary oatmeal until turned over to reveal
no pattern, a solid green, unexpected—
hard to place like the tune the guy on the Tube whistled
now rattling in my head or the dead pigeon I saw
from Westminster Bridge yesterday floating in the Thames
—wings slightly out somewhere mid-flap—either fluttering
down on sidewalk clutter or clapping away
from the progress of pedestrians—
flying on the waves of tour boat's wakes.
Voices in St. Paul's Cathedral
for Geddes Thomas

Christopher Wren designed it from base to dome
built in the 17th & 18th centuries
declared complete about 90 years after
the first twenty were brought to Jamestown
Alone in the Whispering Gallery
I lean to the ear of no one to my left
Can you hear me?

A voice, my father's,
his father's, comes from the right
Can you hear me?

I've brought voices here with me
They linger the way odors do
A friend who visited the citadel at Gorée Island said
you can smell death leftover from the days of the trade.

Aurora Borealis

I'm facing west, my eyes on the train tracks reaching for the vanishing point. The sunset falls
gold and rose on the rails, twin skyscapes each like the slice of sky in the city between
skyscrapers when looking up, but I'm looking down remembering last night—the northern lights,
green from the sky's crown down to the horizon, the bare line of birches running the ridge,
viridescent backlighting leafing trees out of season. On the dirt road between the sloping pasture
and the ridge you said forest fire as I held you and thought a muted carnival just over the hill and
wanted to go there. You were wearing the green sweater that matches your mother's eyes. There
was so much potentiality in that light; it danced over us like breath on a mirror held under a nose
in those noirs or whodunits to check for life or death.


Photo Credit: Bart Nagel