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)
"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
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.
From Sight Reading
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.
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.
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.)