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From Calling Through Water

Swimming in a Foreign Language

 

You might want to know, the late tomatoes still ripen,

breathless in the pale light. Brandywine seeds

 

ported from England learn to speak Berkeley.

We are all immigrants here, learning the twist

 

of tongue, the song of a baseball stitching flight,

lexicon of the housecat scanning the night.

 

Still so many fugitive words. The one for possum

feet that weave a warp to furred vines' woof.

 

The particular green bite the animal takes

from every fruit. The brim of your father’s fedora

 

had he shaken you from sleep before he left.

You dreamed he stood and watched you pitch,

 

one foot on the Hudson running board.

Out of earshot. We’ve learned more people pass

 

when the moon is full. Some words presume

dying is leaving, presume tidal blood ebbs

 

without return. The day you died, the grunion

heaved their silver tsunami—thousands of fins—

 

ashore to twist on the ends of their tails.

The stranded ones gleam with chips of sun.

 

These things we know without seeing.

We can’t name the last breath, until the next one isn’t.

 

What is the word for that silence between?

Water grows heavier the deeper it sinks.

(First appeared in DMQ review)

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"Krieg's pictures push our confidence in photographic veracity to the limit. Similarly, Hamilton knows that words surround meaning like wolves circling sheep but never quite arriving at the prey."

-Rod Slemmons, former Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
 

From Visitation

Autumnal

 

In darkening groves the dun buck bellows

bass line between grunt and snore

furred antlers scoop spotted does

through leafcurl and mouldering logs––

oily musk stirred by spindle legs

bellies white with last light.

Aboard a snag like silvered bone

click beetle chews in thin sun

breaking oak leaves into prisms

he barely notices the thud of hooves

in generations of duff.

At last the stag curves inward

tucks hooves under shaggy chest, sinks

to the forgiving earth.

So much is asked: this 

constant vigil, his gifts scattered––

an afternoon's ink

doubling dainty heartbeats.

Is love any more than this?

A moment of light in the forest.

Cracked oaks exhaling together

as another year lowers

its magnificent head

to our laps.

 

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From Sight Reading

Life Lines

 

I

Longer than memory, the fingers are silent on

the Nazca plains. As the lance-straight lines

engraved across the arid seabed to the precise

point where day and night keep their balance.

White lines carved over and over to call down

the inhabitants of heaven: monkey, spider,

shaman, whale, or the dark between the stars.

Today, an eighteen-wheeler ground the rocks

of a monkey's paw to dust, obliterating a mile-

long condor's beak, then turned to spit and

chew the fragile chalk of a finger that hadn't

moved an inch in millennia. The driver with the

burnt face said he was looking for a shortcut

across the plains. Out of time. Push Replay.

II

In an airless black box in Granada, I still wait for the signal,

clutching damp pesetas. The telefonista raises three fingers

to say the cable has sparked with a message for me. It waits

its turn to move along the ocean floor disturbing the fields

of eels, the coupling of giant cephalopods. Along this

twisted metal buried in the sand, it moves beneath the notice

of killer whales. Soon it will reach the cold black receiver

I weigh in my hands, heavy enough to bash a skull. At last

the crackle announces the daffodils are up. This is what

comes first. And then she says the family dog was crushed

beneath a tire. The deep silence tells me whose. Tells me not

to follow the line back to any kind of home.

III

I trace figures on the screen of the Pampas

Jumana shot from above. The dog. The scorpion.

The jaguar that must eat a heart each night.

They say you need to climb the red hills

that arc across this windless plain's separation

from the sea to read the lines that loop back

on themselves. With enough time they say

the labyrinth becomes a tree of life

a life line pressed to clay.

(First appeared in Mid-American Review.)