Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

One Poem in Parts

H. L. Hix


Before the Day of Trust, the Year of Terror

But that my having fallen came first,
I had not known to call falling

this feeling of following grainy shades
into gray, waving for want of wings,

or fog this silent summoning,
a city sunk whole under a sea.

Who would watch waves must lean into wind.
They wind up lean who long want rain.

If not for waiting, why have we mouths?
If not for failing to fly, why fingers?


Before the Day of Peace, the Year of Occupation

First we see the mothers composed
mostly of smoke, only later

hear them hum above their drowned daughters
lullabies that rename them Debris.

Winding sheets assert themselves white
first against a wispscape of ash,

second inside — no, as — the hush
of shroud-white birds innocent of song

fleeing their own tailfeathers, wronged black
by too-late flight from too-fast flame.


Before the Day of Hope, the Year of Spillage

Constellations nippling the night sky
mirror, as joint-mapped mythic monsters,

their mundane, flightless sisters,
islands risen molten from the sea.

Smog subdues this city, softens it
as oil muffles black the clatter

of rounded rocks, as plastic
silences the albatross. Glass

still reflects but, shattered, scans heaven
and nether, rather than horizon.


Before the Day of Innocence, the Year of Flood

Another locus, this, of well why not,
where sandbags sag useless, lightpoles lean.

List, o list. Kalmunai, Kamala,
Unawatuna, Cuddalore,

Nagapattinam. Multiply, increase.
On fish death forces rising, not falling.

Of humans, none knows worse thirst than one
afloat on a flood under circling birds.

In lieu for now of home, this raft
will have to do, or that blanket.


Before the Day of Gifts, the Year of Famine

Of wings there may be no census,
but which, their number or their swirling,

enforces on spring corn summer husk?
If there were enough of me,

why would I need to swim to cross the sea?
We clutch at mud to mimic those

buried under it. Open palms ask
what otherwise we don’t know how to.

He hears himself hear his worship when —
only when — it shushes her weeping.


Before the Day of Reconciliation, the Year of Drought

Why shock what you can crucify?
Flames feign wings to force the burning to fly.

Strict ratio, if not cause and effect:
one infant hand grips its mother’s chapped lips,

one father sews his own lips shut.
Even the thirsty weep water,

even windblown sand elicits it.
A human shadow across carved stone

will assume, if not the song
at least the silhouette of a bird.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury