by Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman

A child looks down the ditch that is childhood
and wonders how long it goes on:
weeds walking out of the loved desolation,
mica winking in the killer sun.
All morning, she had dragged
her horseshoe magnet through the sand,
collecting iron,
wondered how the grains choose sides
like love and hatred in the diagram
and where would they have gone
had she not caught them.
She knows there’s a warm, triangular sea,
like the huge adult future somewhere.
The lizard scurries in the bramble.
The doll is soft, propped up beside the jar.

The child walks under the forbidden bridge,
stands beneath the rushing cars
studying dirty words on concrete:
curses, intersecting hearts
with smudged darts piercing the initials.
She stands in awe
before the faceless couple,
etched in a coffin of chalk,
having sex forever.
She sits so still and thinks
death must be like this,
among your favorite colors,
the world above you, roaring,
all distinctions gone.

Now she sees the dry ditch
as it is:
the glint of litter,
chrome of the abandoned fender,
how all things unloved, rushed, pushed out
to the great sea against their will survive,
and sees behind the broken feldspar
the expert shabbiness of daily life.
The child knows what the hawk knows-
the night-sweep with the yellow eyes-
or the dog that drinks the nothing beside her:
within pure joy exists
a kind of hollow,
the inverse of a river, the negative water.

Last updated December 17, 2022