Air In The Epic

On the under-mothered world in crisis,
the omens agree. A Come here follows for reader & hero through
the named winds as spirits are
lifted through the ragged colorful o’s on butterflies called fritillarics, tortoise shells &
blues till their vacation settles under
the vein of an aspen leaf like a compass needle stopped in
an avalanche. The students are moving.
You look outside the classroom where construction trucks find little Troys. Dust
rises: part pagan, part looping. Try
to describe the world, you tell them—but what is a description?
For centuries people carried the epic
inside themselves. (Past the old weather stripping, a breeze is making some
6th-vowel sounds yyyyyy that will side
with you on the subject of syntax as 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 grew to the right of all that.
The epic is carried into school
then to scooped­out chairs. Scratchy holes in acoustic tiles pull whwhoo— from
paperbacks. There’s a type of thought
between trance & logic where teachers rest & the mistake you make
when you’re not tired is no breathing.
The class is shuffling, something an island drink might cure or a
citrus goddess. They were mostly raised
in tanklike SUVs called Caravan or Quest; 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 meant to 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 cap like a Red Sox fan. Students
dislike even thinking about Agamemnon. You
love the human species when you see 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 the forms of air: Zephyr, Borcas, Eurus
the grouchy east breeze & Notos
bringer of rains. Maybe she can see 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’s all gone. There’s a section between
the between of joy & terror
where the sailors know they shouldn’t open the sack of winds. It
gives the gods more credit. An
oracle is just another nature. There’s a space between the two beeps
of the dump truck where the
voice can rest. Their vowels join the 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.

Brenda Hillman, “Air in the Epic,” from Pieces of Air in the Epic, © 2005 by Brenda Hillman. Used by permission of Wesleyan University Press.