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“Hibernacle” by Sean Patrick Hill


Pieces of myself I left in the west
I cannot recover

save if I were to travel there without my clothing
hands open and palms the color of old snow
my hair and beard strung
knotted, cold

Such as a petroglyph on a slab of basalt
off the highway in a stand
of larch woods,
but you who could have taken me there again are gone

and I can’t recall its figuration…

You gave me some things
I was thinking about, yesterday

the cedar flute you bought me
the drum
and most importantly
a cardboard box of black bear bones, the skull intact
one yellow canine

We slept in the tamarack
that summer
when we walked out under the full moon to the cemetery
that stood at the edge of a valley of tailings
the dredge
a floating gold machine
settling in its pond, a piece of historical junk

like piles of rusted cans
lead soldered
that lay along the desert road
above the river
we had volunteered to clean

and then I remember

camping on that road with you
sand lilies
an overturned car shot full of holes
vehicle no one could afford
to remove

You were with me
when I kept that bear on the bookshelf
when you found the owl feather
at the tarn’s edge

when we saw the black bear in the road
just after
the semi hit it,
and you’ll remember how I put my hands to it:
head, heart

Picking huckleberries we left
a few for the dead

As for the skull
I hid it in a hollow of lava on an island
in the river
with a wing laid over it

which is what I mean about pieces

though some I kept with me:

the drum in a closet
the flute, unoiled, cracked a bit, but still sings
still tied with leather strips and
a few beads
that hold that owl barb
in place

I’m not sure what I imagine myself doing

going down to the river
uncovering the hole
finding the bones intact as they are in my mind

historical trash

but the yurt in the trees where we slept
I wanted to own something like that
wanted to walk down the road in the same moonlight
past the graveyard

past the crane at the end of the meadow

past the hillside of elephant head orchids

to the spring
gushing from the pipe under the road
cold water
pouring from a fault in the rock face

You kept something of the summer too:
the tools
from the abandoned barn
yellow cotton dress I bought you
a photograph of me playing that flute actually
beneath a cedar

finding the headless owl
on the shoulder
me picking it up by the wings and carrying it
into the aspens

me clipping its wings

me burying the things I was along a pressure ridge
facing the mountains
and the setting sun

maybe even for whatever reason some slim memory
of the car
parked on a dirt road
near a dam
saying, here is the day he left me

here is the day I tore the hair from my head

here is the day I regret having ever
given him my mouth

given him my simple quilts

given him my bones to hide

Of course we are constantly breaking ourselves
breaking some useless trail
over snow
in the direction of some jay in the peak of a larch
crying thief, thief, thief

The river is always leaving something behind
always drying up
in its canyon
which makes those blotted petroglyphs seem
all the more imperative
and sad
and vague as a full moon snagged in rabbitbrush

full moon on the tailings
the sheeted gold
no one found

but one thing more:
the wolf moon we saw over the desert in winter
lying on the hood of your car

whatever it was
coyotes were saying

and the owl caught in the headlights an instant
later flew into my mouth

I heard it singing in the cracked chimney
of my throat

regarding a pile of rusted cans deep enough to suggest that
someone was not alone

someone loved someone
in this desert once


Sean Patrick Hill is the author of The Imagined Field (Paper Kite Press, 2010) and Interstitial (BlazeVOX, 2011). He has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, where he was the recipient of the Zoland Poetry Fellowship, and Montana Artists Refuge and Fishtrap. His reviews of poetry and interviews appear in Rain Taxi, Bookslut, Guernica, Gulf Coast, and Redactions. Poems currently appear in MiPOesias, Unsaid Magazine, LIT, CutBank, Drunken Boat, and are forthcoming in DIAGRAM and Zoland Poetry. He currently lives and teaches in Kentucky, and has been accepted into the Warren Wilson College MFA program.