DANGEROUS GOODS

POEMS
SEAN HILL
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© :o+¡, Text by Sean Hill
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this
book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher:
Milkweed Editions, +o++ Washington Avenue South, Suite ¡oo, Minneapolis, Minnesota ¡¡¡+¡.
(:oo) ¡:o-o¡¡¡
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Published :o+¡ by Milkweed Editions
Printed in Canada
Cover design by Charles Rue Woods
Cover artwork composed from images: canoe by MShep2, starlings by Rene Mansi, and map by
Roberto A. Sanchez. All images from Istockphoto.com.
Author photo by Bart Nagel
+¡ +¡ +¡ +o +; ¡ ¡ ¡ : +
First Edition
Milkweed Editions, an independent nonprofit publisher, gratefully acknowledges sustaining
support from the Bush Foundation; the Patrick and Aimee Butler Foundation; the Dougherty
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hill, Sean, +,;o-
[Poems. Selections]
Dangerous Goods : poems / Sean Hill. — First edition.
pages cm
ISBN ,;:-+-¡;+¡+-¡¡;-¡ (alk. paper) — ISBN ,;:-+-¡;+¡+-:,¡-¡ (e-book)
I. Title.
PS3608.I43775A6 2013
811'.6—dc23
:o+¡o:¡¡o+
Milkweed Editions is committed to ecological stewardship. We strive to align our book
production practices with this principle, and to reduce the impact of our operations in the
environment. We are a member of the Green Press Initiative, a nonprofit coalition of publishers,
manufacturers, and authors working to protect the world’s endangered forests and conserve
natural resources. Dangerous Goods was printed on acid-free 100% postconsumer-waste paper
by Friesens Corporation.
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¡
POSTCARD TO WRONG ADDRESS
Yesterday I was, one place to begin
and Today I saw, another, but I
know I doesn’t matter to you. You
don’t know I or me for that matter.
But you are appropriate—
appropriately unfit like the not it
we sang out in our childhood games.
You’re like a confessional or, maybe,
the restaurant suggestion box;
you don’t care if I’m penitent
or cynical. I could tell you about
the side of paradise I hiked
today with its flora and fauna—
the birds! or the Sidle Parade,
a subtle spectacle I saw yesterday,
and it matters not. I could tell
you how I really feel about my
father or my shoe size, and they’d
both have the same weight like
the Weighing of the Heart—the soul
needs to balance the feather to gain
entry into heaven. Tomorrow
I intend to go to the Dead Man’s
Button Museum. They’re also
called dead man’s throttles—installed
in trains in case an engineer keels
over. Without pressure, the brakes engage.
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¡
POSTCARD TO EDUARDO
for E. Corral
Leaving Dickinson, ND, on ,¡W with the sun
rising at our backs, a tractor trailer in front
and from the height of my vision, from nowhere,
or from heaven, a wine-soaked handkerchief, trailing
its edges, falls as quiet as a bruise into the next
lane over—a barn swallow caught in the truck’s wash.
They once lived in caves, but now make their nests
in man-made shelters, under bridges and barn eaves—
barns where might be kept a horse’s harness,
the parts of which you recited to me once—crupper,
martingale, throatlatch—rolling your r’s, lashing those
words lavishly for all they’re worth. I’ve since been told
one should always keep the throatlatch nice and loose.
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¡
POSTCARD FROM A DESTINATION
I’ve heard a man would need a keel
bone six feet long
to cradle muscle enough to pull him
up on his own, keep him in the air,
or wind between a breeze and a gale,
a bit more than enough water
to drown in, and a sense
of displacement to set sail.
A keel bone is not a rudder, but
either can get you here.
I suppose I should say, it was warm
and clear here today, or
boats have keels and birds
have keel bones.
Was I the space between the ruffled
feathers on a robin’s red breast
—a wispy yen for warmth—before
you knew me?
A keel’s leading edge
is called a cutwater,
not to be confused with
a shearwater—a seabird
seldom seen from shore.
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o
This note could fit in a bottle; one’s
being emptied; the last red drop rolls
down its neck.
Soon dregs will rest in the curve
of the wineglass’s belly—a hammock’s
sag here, where the day’s dregs sit on the sea
at the far edge of everything.
Here is me; I am here; I am desire; I
am nothing when you come, I fear.
I’ll miss you when you’re here. Stay
home; keep me forever.
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;
BAHAMAS VOYAGE:
MEDITATIONS ON BLACKS ON BOATS
Day +
Up the gangway of the Big Red Boat
the SS Atlantic
white, red, and blue
banners and streamers
A colorful crew croons along
“The Star-Spangled Banner”
Accents thick sing-songy high
and guttural low as the boat
leaves port out to sea traveling slow
Day :
A cruise to the Bahamas
on the ¡th of July
occasioned by a family reunion
Below decks cramped in with
my little brother and a complimentary
bottle of champagne
The champagne goes down
The water on-board briny that of coastal cities
port towns to which slave ships made their rounds
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:
Day ¡
On deck in the sun
headphones on listening to
Charles Mingus: Town Hall Concert
Two songs “So Long Eric”
and “Praying With Eric”
After the first they clap
and Mingus introduces:
This next composition was written
when Eric Dolphy explained to me
that there’s something similar
to the concentration camps once in Germany
now down South.
The only difference being
they don’t have gas chambers
and hot stoves to cook us in
yet.
He continues:
So I wrote a piece called
Meditations as to how to get some wirecutters
before someone else gets some guns to us.
Conflation and conflagration
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,
Day ¡
On a slave ship in the hold below decks
Barely enough room for burial—squeezed
in tight like a coffin too small—surrounded
by others, sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers
like books shelved—handsomely bound
in black—volumes in an ongoing travelogue
Day ¡
“I was born”
Black and bold
sprayed on a concrete mooring block
on the pier
A stock line
the “once upon a time” of Slave Narratives
They were born in America
Day o
Framed by the porthole’s red rim
two blues meet
Waves rise redundant undulant
a cat’s hackles—deep blue
(of brand new jeans he buys for the label)
indigo that was king before cotton
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+o
Day ;
Bombay Sapphire I bought duty free
in a bottle the clear blue of the water
at a Bahamian beach
does not comfort me.
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++
VOICES IN ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
for Geddes Thomas
Christopher Wren designed it from base to dome—
built in the +;th & +:th centuries,
declared complete about ninety years after
the first twenty were brought to Jamestown.
Alone in the Whispering Gallery
I lean to the ear of no one to my left—
Can you hear me?
A voice, my father’s,
his father’s, comes from the right—
Can you hear me?
I’ve brought voices here with me;
they linger the way odors do.
A friend who visited the citadel at Gorée Island said
you can smell death left over from the days of the trade.
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+:
FORTNIGHT
for Eric Black
Big Ben’s struck five again.
Why am I here at the Millennium Wheel,
the eye of London? I don’t want to queue-up—
won’t queue-up, but I’m here.
London is lousy with old buildings,
statues, parks, theaters, and museums.
The Tate Britain houses a piece by Richard Dadd—
a nineteenth century Brit.
Killed his father and lived a long life
in asylums painting fairy landscapes.
The soundtrack for this solitary sojourn
quiet and incidental like the puzzle piece
found face down when I disembarked at Heathrow—
a dreary oatmeal until turned over to reveal
no pattern, a solid green, unexpected—
hard to place like the tune the guy on the Tube whistled
now rattling my head or the dead pigeon I saw
from Westminster Bridge yesterday floating in the Thames
—wings slightly out somewhere mid-flap—either fluttering
down on sidewalk clutter or clapping away
from the progress of pedestrians—
flying on the waves of tour boats’ wakes.
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POSTCARD TO ANNA
for A. Potter
In Cairo I missed street pigeons; they were
not there at the open-air eatery where
I dined with Jasmine off Talaat Harb
when the morsel of macaroni missed
my mouth. I only saw pigeons on menus
and the backseat of a Peugeot in and atop
a sturdy-looking wooden cage because
the cage door was open. There were
no sparrows to clean up my mess either.
We found them on a menu a few days
later. The waiter hesitated, then translated
the Arabic for our table, and we said Yes,
we want sparrows. The hesitation at bones
holding up, resisting the jaw, my maw,
those bones for tendons to bind muscles
to and help buoy that tiny body above
the flow of folk with their sedentary
urban tendencies, a mouthful that came
with a people stopping by this river,
edged with papyrus that they beat flat
and dried brown to leave notes for each
other. They were delicious, those sparrows,
in their port wine sauce.
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POSTCARD TO MY THIRD CRUSH TODAY
I’ve been on the move; the bottoms
of my shoes have rested on forty-eight states,
six Canadian Provinces, seven countries,
three continents, and the crush is constant.
You look like someone’s daughter;
I find that so attractive. I once
thought this, but now it’s someone’s
mother or aunt more often than not
or cousin or uncle or brother or son
on occasion. The crush is everywhere,
or maybe it’s me, my luck, like always
seeing the corner crooners by the storefront
of The Heart, loitering—singing for quarters
and grins. Most days I can count on the first
and second crush, and sometimes there’s a fifth
or sixth. They’re as likely not to notice me
as to smile in my eyes. Either way my heart
skips like those flat stones that kiss the skin
of the pond and fly off again before sinking.
Today it is you in that polka dot dress I need
to thank for getting me to three. The Heart’s
a big chain; there’s one everywhere you go,
and they rarely have those No Loitering signs.
You’re more likely to see No Solicitations.
I’ll leave this postcard here for you to find.
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DISTANCE BETWEEN DESIRES
From the moon to the end of this poem
hums the distance between desires.
In troughs of night Jasmine slept,
numb from the consumption of rays
from the moon. Through to its end, this poem
fends off desire. A toast to the heavy
drum that pulls us daily and urges that we
hum the distance. Between desires,
men scoff at the moon, hung lightly to shine
plum-dark nights, as they measure breaths
from the moon to the end. Of our poems,
ends tossed out to hold them off, we hope
some may say they rumble on and pleasingly
hum the distance between. Desires
bend us and bend. Doff your hat, where I come
from, a show of respect. Desires plumb where we come
from. The moon to the end of this poem
lends soft light. As one desire leaves another
hums the distance between desires.
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+o
VACATION
I crossed the Mississippi
for the first time
early our second morning out, driving
slow, and after five days of driving—
driving and visiting,
driving and car troubles,
driving and myriad signs inviting:
COME SEE THE WORLD’S LARGEST INDIAN RESERVATION
GREEN PETRIFIED WOOD NEXT RIGHT
LIVE ALBINO CAVE BUFFALO
FREE ;: oz. STEAK
(there’s always a catch),
driving and car troubles,
driving and driving west,
driving and not to the ocean yet—
I can’t sleep in Albuquerque.
Yesterday I realized
the land between
here and Santa Rosa
(where we lost
the transmission
and a day) is
too bare and flat.
The horizon’s not cluttered or
broken,
brought closer by trees
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+;
or anything.
I wasn’t meant to see that far.
My mother, father, brother,
grandmothers, and aunts—
everything excised.
I can’t feel it anymore.
Distance grows in the bones.
Tonight I feel the room
spinning like after a bender,
but I’ve been sober
since Georgia.
I can feel the world
wobble under this bed
off balance because
Georgia’s gone to oblivion.
Hill_Goods_int.indd 17 10/22/13 9:50 AM

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