Occp Poets


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Gordon Hilgers


Gordon Hilgers, born in Colorado, has been living here in the flatlands since the year Kennedy died.  Before he arrived in Dallas--he was only eight--he simply couldn't comprehend a landscape without mountains.  He used to sit in a huge elm tree on Harlan Street, in Denver, gazing at the mountains and pondering which one of them was the boulder by which Boulder, Colorado, was named.  Other times, he'd lay, face-up, on the front lawn, gazing at clouds as his father mowed the lawn in increasingly diminishing circles around him.  Still other times, he spent hours stalking wild pheasants and catching sunfish in a mountain stream only a half mile from his home.  In the afternoons, walking home from school, he could smell vapors of the famed Coors Beer wafting off Lookout Mountain--where Wild Bill Cody is buried.  Then, he came to Dallas, and that first August was so scorchingly hot, and the air so full of ragweed and other powerful allergins, that he took sick for several months.  He has been writing poetry since this time. 




(In which the poet makes a snide remarkabout Zen Buddhism and gets thrown outa basement window by a Sumo wrestler)

Oddly appropriate location: Passenger

Inside a silver automobile, feeling alone

When you exclaimed, "Your bracelet.

Didnt you wear a fine copper bracelet?

On your right wrist? I just noticed its



"It was a really poor reminder," I said.

"I bought it for pennies, but the store,

its gone. It didnt work well anyway."


"Your arthritis? Did it turn your arm



"That, and the person it honored," I now

said. "It had a Buddhist inscription: Om

Mani Padmi Hum: I Honor Divinity In All."


"Finally gave that up, eh? Kinda zennish."


"A divine moment," I said. "No matter

where or what, I could look at the face

of a momentary god, remembering it and

the woman there when I bought the thing


but Divinity seems to have changed. Soon

only the Darker Faces, the Ones that pull

like gravity or pain, availed Themselves

and I had to remove It like a shackle."


This was one big line of garbage, believe

Me. We make the smallest things larger

To minimize the largest intricacies, and

When it hurts, we reverse the processes.


"In order to forget," I added, "I threw it

in a box with the paper clips and staples

because I had wandered the streets, days


blending into one mélange of afflictions.


That was the lesson," I said, the laughter

Left unflappably laughable in my mouth.

Though it had been true, I left that also.


"You are so wise," the woman answered.

"Most people would never think a thing

can possess such spiritual weight. Cuff

to remember the good, freedom to forget


suffering." And all for $3.59, I thought

and cheaper than every shaman in here

a dumb old town that really likes jewels.





You were the essence of a cliché
Suffering every indignity in your little girls room.

All its lace, and dolls, everything pink as a primrose

Shared nothing with the wildness of weeds

That momentarily raise their dresses skyward

Like wind-sprung umbrellas. Unless, supposing

Your childhood, relegated away as useless

Found at last its unacknowledged homage

Among crabgrass and milkweed.


Today, nearly thirty years after my attempt

To cultivate your questioning beauty, I passed

An entire field of primroses in a lot.

Hundreds of unsolicited blossoms like a babys

Ruddy cheeks as I drifted by them. At last

Behind the branch-battered transit bus windows

Accompanied by a soundtrack of vulgarities

Posing as exclamations as some woman peppers

Her testimony of love for a man with scatology

I understood your tears could never open enough

To bring the two together quite like this.


The belief in forcing a crack, an intuition at best

At the time justified questioning your girlhood

By rejecting it. I could only adore you

In not running when you wept and raged

Yet never left alone. So politic of me, you said

To teach, to make this mean something

About freedom from constraint, breaking you

As if to rearrange. What flowered was a scar


Because you returned to your innocence

Cornered like nothing was ever to live again

A defense from the pain. Your independence

Right on the back of pulling you forward

And now some weeds in a vacant lot

Remind me of where I might have come

Had I begged my emptiness to leave me there

Rather than sending me to drift.

My heart had been devastated, too

Shattered inside its tiny menagerie, all tears

Where the dolls and pink blushes may

Thrive in some lives. Instead, ridicule


Bore me like a mother from the wreckage.

It hurt to even touch you. I could hear the dust

Of my fathers corpse in your music box,

The smell of the earth at the graveside there

In the theater and the act you represented.

The goldenrod sheen on your head

Became learning to latch the knot in my necktie

All by myself at the mirror, the odor of

My fathers cologne around my neck.

There I was, your tears on my cheek, holding

On, being gentle, a friend, trying to show you how

That in the vagrant fields you forget

And now look at me.




Here we are, watching from the stage

The mythology of the Indians, our perspective

Undeniably Caucasian as we shear off the braids

In a rural school almost as Catholic. Struck

By our middle age like a slap on the hand

The ruler in the fist of a nun, demanding

Resignation, a resurrection from savagery

Though that will come in time.


This morning I felt death arriving, sorry

To admit itself through the stiffness of vertebrae

You seem to have strung around your neck.

Why would a man turn away from this? Why

Dress himself like a woman, in bangles

Or cowries? Refuse to cut his vanity

From the scalp, the bright colors of suicide

In his shirts? Even my spectacles belie it:

The termination where two worlds have met.


Once you would have been brave enough

To cultivate these trees without pruning them.

Again, even the skin of each life, twisting

Roiling under the sun, becomes useless inside

Where the ideal awaits, too often televised

As we sit like cudgels in a field of poetry

Ineffectual and worthless. Not one man anywhere

Is as beautiful as his image, no woman

Reflected in his eyes, the soul of evolution

Repudiated into stasis, perpetual childhood,

A death outside the obituaries.


So we kill the aboriginal, usurp the mystic

Mining for turquoise in someone elses

Sacred lands. The goal accomplished

We mock with our imitations and aerosol away

Bad smells from the camps. We sage

In our sorrows and worry our bedrooms, rituals

Managing our arrogance. My ancestors

Smeared blood on their bodies, slept in bogs

Terrified patrician Rome with their gaul

proudly on the Palatine Hill, derisively aware

As they decapitated your blind statues, their guts

Hanging low. Now I cast a new spell


Mix my earth with your vinegary wine:

Drink to the twilit silver of their streams

Passing through the pueblos, sheen of swords

Slicing through white dust like tears

Down a powdered cheek; break the circlets

Of pox on their blankets of brown skin

As they ring up our purchase at the drugstore

In Taos; and honor conquest by assumption

Of costume as they break-dance in the square

For pennies, tourist to tourist. In time

It will come to you too. Fat as pumpkins


Sitting in the homeless shelters, your gods

Weaning sick children with Kentucky Deluxe

Proclaiming themselves Mexican, acts

Of resistance, glancing down from the stage

Your puerility on trial in a waste full

Of arrowheads that cannot be seen by you

Though we each pass into the ghost fields

Of our crows feet, our gnarling bones

Softened by the buffalo fat of expensive lotion.


Tonight, your womanish death coming to you

Twilight will redden like the skin of Kenneth Love

Born in Pine Ridge and blinded by drink

Careening his broken-down rattle-trap up

Greenville Avenue, but riding on faith

Like a spear, an axe, on the hunt, riding closer

To the cliffs edge, hidden in the brush

As always, everything young fleeing before him.


Theres your Indian, unacceptable, the same as then.