Air In The Epic

Brenda Hillman - 1951-
On the under-mothered world in crisis,
the omens agree. A Come herefollows for reader & hero through
the named winds as spirits are
lifted through the ragged colorful o's onbutterflies called fritillarics, tortoise shells &
blues till their vacation settles under
the vein of an aspen leaflike a compass needle stopped in
an avalanche. The students are moving.
You look outside the classroom whereconstruction trucks find little Troys. Dust
rises: part pagan, part looping. Try
to describe the world, you tellthem—but what is a description?
For centuries people carried the epic
inside themselves. (Past the old weatherstripping, a breeze is making some
6th-vowel sounds yyyyyy that will side
with you on the subject of syntaxas into the word wind they
go. A flicker passes by: air
let out of a Corvette tire.)Side stories leaked into the epic,
told by its lover, the world.
The line structure changed. Voices grewto the right of all that.
The epic is carried into school
then to scooped­out chairs. Scratchy holesin acoustic tiles pull whwhoo-- from
paperbacks. There's a type of thought
between trance & logic where teachersrest & the mistake you make
when you're not tired is no breathing.
The class is shuffling, something anisland drink might cure or a
citrus goddess. They were mostly raised
in tanklike SUVs called Caravan orQuest; winds rarely visited them. Their
president says global warming doesn't exist.
Some winds seem warmer here. Some.Warriors are extra light, perhaps from
ponies galloping across the plains.
Iphigenia waits for winds to start. 
Winds stowed in goatskins were meantto be released by wise men:
gusts & siroccos, chinooks, hamsins, whooshes,
blisses, katabatics, Santa Anas, & foehns.Egyptian birds were thought to be
impregnated by winds. The Chinese god
of wind has a red-&-blue caplike a Red Sox fan. Students
dislike even thinking about Agamemnon. You
love the human species when yousee them, even when they load
their backpacks early & check the
tiny screens embedded in their phones.A ponytail hodler switches with light,
beguiled. Iphigenia waits for the good.
Calphas & her father have mistaken theforms of air: Zephyr, Borcas, Eurus
the grouchy east breeze & Notos
bringer of rains. Maybe she cansee bones in the butterfly wings
before they invent the X-ray. Her
father could have removed the sails& rowed to Troy. Nothing makes
sense in war, you say. Throw
away the hunger & the war'sall gone. There's a section between
the between of joy & terror
where the sailors know they shouldn'topen the sack of winds. It
gives the gods more credit. An
oracle is just another nature. There'sa space between the two beeps
of the dump truck where the
voice can rest. Their vowels jointhe names of winds in white
acoustic tiles. A rabbit flies across
the field with Zephyr right behind.Wind comes when warm air descends.
The imagined comes from the imargined.

More by Brenda Hillman

Sediments of Santa Monica

A left margin watches the sea floor approach
 
It takes 30 million years 
It is the first lover
 
More saints     for Augustine's mother

A girl in red shorts shakes Kafka's
The Trial free of some sand
 
A left margin watches the watcher from Dover
 
After the twentieth century     these cliffs
Looked like ribbons on braids or dreads
 
A dream had come right over 
With a sort of severe leakage
 
Ah love let us be true to one another
 
Went down to the ferris wheel
God's Rolodex
 
There were neon spikes around everyone 
Like the Virgin's spikes 

Old punk's mohawk     Evidence of inner fire 

Rode throwing words off     Red current     Light swearing 

Ah love The century 
Had become a little drippy at the end
 
We're still growing but the stitches hurt     Let us be 

True to one another for the world
 
Easy on the myths now 
Make it up     Sleep well

Wood's Edge

Infinity lifted: 
a gasp of emeralds.
 
I thought I felt 
the tall night trees 
between them,
 
no exactitude, 
a wait not even 
known yet.
 
I held my violet up; 
no smell. 
It made a signal squeak 
inside, bats,
 
lisps of pride;
 
ah, their little things, 
their breath: lungs of a painting,
 
they swept me 
in four ways, their square
plans, as I have made 
a good square saying,
 
you I 
you not-I 
not-you I 
not-you not-I,
 
ritual of hope 
whose weight 
has not been measured—

String Theory Sutra

There are so many types of 
“personal” in poetry. The “I” isa needle some find useful, though
the thread, of course, is shadow. 
In writing of experience or beauty,a cloth emerges as if made
from a twin existence. It's July 
4: air is full of mistakenstars & the wiggly half-zeroes stripes
make when folded into fabric meant 
never to touch ground ever again—the curved cloth of Sleeping Beauty
around 1310, decades after the spinning 
wheel gathered stray fibers in awhir of spindles before the swath
of the industrial revolution, & by 
1769 a thread stiff enough forthe warp of cotton fabric from
the spinning frame, the spinning jenny, 
the spinning "mule" or muslin wheel,which wasn't patented. By its, I
mean our, for we would become 
what we made. String theory positsno events when it isn't a
metaphor; donuts twists in matter—10 
to the minus 33 cm—itsinverted fragments like Bay Area poetry— 
numbers start the world for grown-ups 
& wobbly fibers, coaxed from eternity,are stuffed into stems of dates
like today so the way people 
are proud of their flag canenter the pipes of a 4.
Blithe astonishment in the holiday music 
over the picnickers: a man wavesfrom his spandex biking outfit, cloth
that both has & hasn't lost 
its nature. Unexpected folds are partof form where our park is
kissed by cucalyptus insect noises ^^z- 
z~ ~> crr, making that for youFlag cloth has this singing quality.
Airline pilots wear wool blend flag 
ties from Target to protect theirhearts. Women, making weavings of
unicorns in castles, hummed as they sewed 
spiral horns with thread so realit floated; such artists were visited
by figures in beyond-type garments so 
they could ask how to live.It’s all a kind of seam.
Flying shuttles, 1733, made weaving like 
experience, full of terrible accidents &progress. Flags for the present war
were made in countries we bombed 
in the last war. By we you mean they. By you it
means the poem. By it I 
mean meanings which hang tatters ofdawn’s early light in wrinkled sections of
the druid oak with skinny linguistic 
branches, Indo-European roots & theweird particle earth spirits. A voice
came to me in a dream 
beyond time: love, we are yourshadow thread ~ ~ A little owl
with stereo eyes spoke over my 
head. I am a seamstress forthe missing queen. The unicorn can’t
hear. It puts its head on 
our laps. Fibers, beauty at alow level, fabric styles, the cottage
industry of thought. Threads inspired this 
textile picnic: the satin ponytail holder,the gauze pads inside Band-Aids,
saris, threads of the basketball jersey, 
turbans, leis over pink shorts, sportsbras: A young doctor told us
—he’s like Chekhov, an atheist believer 
in what’s here —that sometimes, sittingwith his dying patients, he says,
“God bless you.” It seems to 
help somewhat. They don’t know whatcauses delays between strings—by they,
I mean the internet. Turns out 
all forces are similar to gravity.We searched for meaning ceaselessly. By
we I mean we. Sewed it 
us-wards, with flaws between strings.It seems there is no revolution
in the Planck scale. My sisters 
& I worked for the missingqueen: she said: be what you
aren’t. A paradox. There are some 
revolutions: rips in matter, the bentnots inside our fabric whirred &
barely mattered anymore. Our art 
could help take vividness to peoplebut only if they had food.
No revolution helped the workers, ever, 
very long. We worked on thisor that flag after sewing this
or that unicorn. They called Trotsky 
back from Canada. Tribes were looser thannations, nations did some good
but not so very always, & 
the types of personal in artturned & turned. Nylon parachutes in
1937. Lachesis. We shall not flag 
nor fail, wrote Churchill. O knight,tie our scarf on your neck.
There are more than two ways 
to make beauty so movements endlike sutras or horizons, somewhat frayed.
Je est un autre wrote Rimbaud 
the gun-runner. Over & inner &code. The unicorn, c’est moi. The
rips by which the threads are 
tethered to their opposites like conceptsof an art which each example
will undo. We spoke of meanings. 
I, it, we, you, he, theyam, is, are sick about America.
Colors forgive flags—red as the 
fireskirt of the goddess Asherah, white 
as the gravity behind her eye, 
blue for the horizon unbuttoned sothe next world can get through.
The “thin thread of calculable continuity” 
Santayana refers to —it’s not achoice between art & life, we
know this now, but still: How 
shall we live? O shadow thread.After the cotton workers’ lockout 1922
owners cut back sweatshop hours to 
44 per week. In string theorythe slippage between string & theory
makes air seem an invented thing 
& perhaps it is, skepticism mixedwith fear that since nothing has
singular purpose, we should not act. 
To make reality more bearable forsome besides ourselves? There’s a moment
in Southey’s journal when the tomb 
is opened & the glow-beast exits—right when the flying shuttle has
revolutionized their work—by their I 
mean our —& cut costs byhalf. So lines are cut to
continue them & if you do 
help the others, don’t tell. String theoryposits symmetry or weight. My country
’tis of installing provisional governments. 
Why was love the meaning thread.Textiles give off tiny singing no
matter what: washable rayon, airport 
carpets, checked flannel smocks of nurses,caps, pillowcases, prom sashes, & barbecue
aprons with insignias or socks people 
wear before/during sexual thrills afterdark subtitled Berkeley movies next to
t-shirts worn by crowds in raincoats. 
Human fabric is dragged out, beingis sewn with terror or awe
which is also joy. Einstein called mystery 
of existence “the fundamental emotion.”Remember? You unraveled in childhood till
you were everything. By everything I mean 
everything . The unicorn puts its headon your lap; from there it
sees the blurry edge. How am 
I so unreal & yet mythread is real it asks sleepily~~