The Fuel of an Infinite Life

by Brenda Hillman

You argue with someone at work. The chemical change
            in your shadow meets the dry grass at the edge
            of his shadow like an adolescent planning on
            burning a field or the love you wanted
            to have later with another, the memory of what
            your energy made before he began to speak.

It is impossible to discuss anything with your boss
            because he has consulted the priest & they
            will never see you again—; you stored that
            in the chamber of geometric symbols, saying
            to the wings above the granary, there is the fact
            of the barren stalks, the pharaoh’s dream

of hunger, saying to yourself (a prophetic mute),
            the hour will come someday for fire until
            there are years of storing energy in these postures,
            drawing circles with bones from the nine names
            & lights that make words into sticks for
            winnowing the shadows of falsity or ridicule.

Even the world, wide as it is, cannot exhaust
            the fuel of your life when you are one of
            the interpreters about to escape from the dream
            with your archived & flexible heat, trying
            to keep from hating them at the marketplace,
            to remember what would transform judgment

into action if only you could abandon the gifts as if
            they were nothing, after you & the pharaoh’s
            huts are long gone; the dream will not be
            idle when it touches the tip of the match
            to the willing field after the harvest—

            for BBH & SM


On the Miracle of Nameless Feeling

As the Roots Prepare for Literature

brenda hillman Brenda Hillman has published eight collections of poetry, all from Wesleyan University Press: White Dress (1985), Fortress (1989), Death Tractates (1992), Bright Existence (1993), Loose Sugar (1997), Cascadia (2001), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005), and Practical Water (2009), for which she won the LA Times Book Award for Poetry, and three chapbooks: Coffee, 3 A.M. (Penumbra Press, 1982); Autumn Sojourn (Em Press, 1995); and The Firecage (a+bend press, 2000). She has edited an edition of Emily Dickinson's poetry for Shambhala Publications, and, with Patricia Dienstfrey, co-edited The Grand Permisson: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (2003). She co-translated, with Diallah Haidar, Poems from Above the Hill: Selected Poems of Ashur Etwebi, one of Libya's most significant poets. In 2010 she co-translated Jeongrye Choi's book of poems, Instances, released by Parlor Press.