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Scott Hightower

1952–

Born on a ranch in central Texas on August 4, 1952, Scott Hightower attended the University of Texas and Columbia University.

He is the author of Self-evident (Barrow Street Press, 2012); Part of the Bargain (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award for New and Emerging Poets Natural Trouble (2003); and Tin Can Tourist (2001). He has also published a bilingual collection of poems in Spanish, translated by Natalia Carbajosa.

Hightower's own translations of poems by the Spanish-Puerto Rican poet Aurora de Albornoz have garnered him a Willis Barnstone Translation Prize.

About his poetry, Marie Ponsot has said: "The most exciting quality of Hightower's work is its poetic and paradoxical unifying of emotional and intellectual depth with a marvelous quietness."

Hightower has taught at Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. He currently serves as adjunct faculty at NYU and Drew University. A former Poet-in-Residence at Fordham University, Hightower currently lives in New York City.

By This Poet

3

My Father

was a cowboy.
My father was a sugar man.
My father was a teamster.
 
My father was a Siberian 
tiger; a corsair; a lamb, 
a yellow dog, a horse's ass.
 
My father had a triple bi-pass.
My father was a rat 
but he bought me my first hat. 
 
My father believed in decency 
and fair play. My father drove 
the getaway. My father was a blue jay.
 
My father drove the boys away.
My father drove a Thunderbird, 
a Skylark, a Firebird, an old pickup truck 
 
with a rusty tool box, a Skybird, 
a Sunray. My father drove hard bargains 
ever day; he was a force. My father 
 
was mercurial. He was passive, 
a little moody: rock... paper... scissors. 
He loved me. He loved me not.
 
He stomps and hurls lightning bolts. 
Has slipped away. Passed away. 
My father was passé. My father 
 
was a Texas Ranger. Taught me 
to pray. Because of him, I hoard things 
in an old shoe box. Because of him, I use 
 
botox. Because of him, I look to clocks. 
Because of my father, I know how 
to oil the gate; don’t own a map. 
 
Because of my father, I have no use for 
similes. Because of my father, I hunger 
for my own catalog of metaphors.
 


(for Doris Schnabel)

Apocalypse Soliloquy

I hope my death is not stolen from me
by a fiery blast of Fahrenheit or Celsius      
or another calculatable accuracy.                       

I will gladly relinquish all the pleasures of daily 
bread, the pride and dreams of art—even pulse;
but I hope my death will not be taken from me.

Actually, it is a modest policy;
little there to discuss as to solace
or in the way of privacy.

A valued moment of self-possession? Might it be
something to embrace more than to expulse?
I hope my death will not be pried from me.

My end is not to be just a cause in a public sea 
of scientists teaming against a disease,
a private point in a welter of piracy.

After all, won't it fundamentally and rightly 
be mine and no one else's? I hope my death is 
not taken from me; better, it be 
an appointment kept in a private sea.

Rubber Dollie

The only permanent thing is the soul,
and what has happened to it.

                               —Patrick Kavanagh

Like a dancer covered in nothing
but white powder, then sponged

with coarse brown makeup;
nothing else in plain sight

but silver anklets; arms
extended to take

the tribute of a guard's embrace.
We are watching from behind;

though, there are no flowers,
no curtain. And it's not a ballet.

It's a macabre charade,
one night in the secret

theater of Abu Ghraib.
The anklets are shackles.

In another, a leashed
dog-loud, black,

and snarling—takes
center stage. And, in others,

real men, looking like oddly
manipulated Kachina dolls

or naked degraded marionettes
in medieval hoods—

their elbows akimbo—
are paraded, strung erect,

wired, collapsed;
are stacked into a pile.

"Save us
from noisy oblivion;

from despair. Save us,
one by one,

from Roman cruelty;
from death

by water;
from death

by fire. Save us
from being eaten alive."