Thursday, September 6, 2012

HIllary Joan

our middle names are saints'
On April 24, 1907 at 2:03 a.m. the biggest
ship god’s ever seen put its nose under the waves
and sighed itself into history. A bubble rushing
up from a port-hole nostril looked like a head
coming to the surface for air but he did not
lift his face to breathe.

If you marry her, I said
you are going to stay in that town forever,
but watching him walk in sock feet across her
plush whiteness to light the candle, I guess
he knew that when he asked. She will know
I helped you pick this out
, my brother says to me,
I always choose water scents.

He is all the parts of me in superlative.
We are deluxe shells and electric cheese
squeezed from foil bladders.We are broken
fireplaces in rooms of floor model chairs for
company and the background noise from TVs
in the basement, all the bedrooms and the kitchen. 
We are unstressed consonants and flat
vowels reminding the listener of nothing.
We are quiet because we don't have
anything nice to say.

The other he’s not in this one and
as long as we're being exclusive,
let’s keep her out of this too.
How about a joke instead?
A microbiologist is looking at a
cancer under a microscope and
she goes if you like this cleavage,
you should see my daughter cells

On April 24, 1998 at 2:03 a.m. a child opens
her eyes in the darkness and runs a tiny hand
over an encyclopedia article tacked to the wall.
109 dead, drowned or frozen I recite from
memory and then slip back into that dream
where I am under the waterslide. My brother
calls to me from the side of the pool but

I cannot sit up.

We are two dead ends of the same long road, 
walking in opposite directions away
from the crack we crawled out of, the other
grows smaller, and farther, and finer.
I hope my brother does not gaze
down that road like I do, wondering
if he changed directions now,
would he spend the rest of his life just
getting back to where we started. 

captured smoke

I have reached a point in my life
where I know I never need to go to
another photography retrospective
on New York celebrities.
I already know how cool smoking looks.
Less so, somehow when corn-fed
imitators are shot in the act, mid-exhale,
on a backdrop of venetian blinds and
that is how my brothers and sisters and
I will be remembered on the internet.
But I'm in a place now where I know
real vice isn't practiced for pictures.
It is done, like most things I do, to prevent
strangers from talking to me, when I am
alone outside of buildings, unsure of
which one to enter because

no one is expecting me.

josephine anne

Josephine Anne, you’re headed toward shore but going that rate, you will never get there.
Hull heavy in your tire-coat, you are swept back into that dark channel with each rising swell. 
Jo, how do you float so well with all that cargo? What’s in the boxes stacked on your back?
No one would blame you if you shrugged a few off to slide more easily between the hulking
great barges clogging these national arteries. 

Josephine Anne, you are a Mississippi pebble inscribed in the capillary waves of global freighters. 
I hope those river tides will carry you across the circumference soon; that a current comes along and breaks
your aqueous chain, something carries you into open waters or even sends you back the way you came but

Jo, I hope you never find a dock. As soon as you stop there, they’ll waste no more breath about your seaworthy status, they’ll pick you right off that wet road, they’ll dry you in sun, you’re amphibious body will bake while pig-faced, land-legged children clammer up your sides, spit on your deck, shout crude maritime lines at the gulls on your mast and those birds will lift off into circles above you and laugh. Worse, when their fished out waste drops onto your back, you will remember spray and the pleasure of drift.  

Josephine Anne, you’re headed toward land but I am standing on it, dry as a fossil and I hope you never get here.  

Hillary Joan lives and works in books in New Orleans, LA. She can be reached at

updated from the Pilot truck stop in Brooklyn Iowa.

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