Published on Academy of American Poets (

Micro-minutes on Your Way to Work

Days are unusual. The owl sends
           out 5 zeroes from the pines
           plus one small silver nothing. Where
            	do they float? Maybe out to
           sea, where jellyfish are aging left
& right. They have some nerve.
           Today, no new wars, probably. No
big button. The owl could be
           your scholar of trapped light or
Walter Benjamin who writes a storm
blows in from paradise. Thinking through
           these things each week, you cross 
the bridge: gold coils, fog, feelings…
           syllables also can grow younger like
  those jellyfish. You bring your quilt
           of questions in the car. At
work, you’ll have to be patient
           at the risky enterprise of talking
to other people;  so little progress
           in this since the Pleistocene. Mostly,
though, you’re calm when traveling: silver
nothing, moving right & left; day
           releasing the caged stars; one thought
mixed with no-thought, packed with light…
                                            	for MK


Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’ve been working on and off for about a decade with a procedural form inspired by a Jena Osman essay; the form is six words per line, twenty-four lines. (I try to be strict but sometimes give or take a word or two and consider hyphenated words to be one.) I have used it for some ecopoetic pieces and also for pieces about odd emotions. The challenge is to put a lot of existence in a short space, which is what interests me in poetry in general. This poem originated at dawn when I heard an owl in a Berkeley treetop; I was thinking about the commute of a friend who has to do a lot of work in the public sphere. I often think about non-human energy and life that goes in and out of consciousness simultaneously with historical events. The poem also refers to Walter Benjamin’s ideas about history as well as a sense that thought and light are both something and nothing.”
—Brenda Hillman


Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman is the author of ten poetry collections, including Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2012 and currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2018-05-02

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