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Issue 1.1 

Summer 2021

Brenda Hillman


This is one of three poems I wrote when the electrical power had been turned off during fire and wind events in California; this has become a way of life in our area.  The style of strip-like lines is one I have deployed often since the 1990s, especially in my book Cascadia. It is useful style to create a sense of separate but linked poetic moments when the mind is navigating disjunctive impulses. One of my models for this style has always been the early poems of René Char.

Poem before the Power
Went Out

The future was handsome before the power went out


She wrote to say he was being nice


Scythes of eucalyptus       weekday resentment

Pink Kleenex     snagged in the fence


Where did it come from     our hydropower

& if from the mountains       as if


Wind in the country      spiky sports hair   

Elections        electrons      in free fall


They never knew where their power came from


Nuthatch left stripes      when it flew off


Laws paused       evening impeached them

Morning chill       of being a self


Ceasefire on rural roads      local displacement

& if from the rivers       as if


She wrote in a notebook     Once you were calm

Vorisively       she made up a word


Coyote bushes      filled with dire minutes

A spark whispered      not this again


Old souls      leaving the city


She called to ask     are you being strong


How can we live now      vision & science

In love with forever       stones limped along

Brenda Hillman is the author of ten collections of poetry from Wesleyan University Press, including Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days (2018). She has edited and co-translated numerous books, most recently At Your Feet by Ana Cristina Cesar—co-translated with Helen Hillman. She currently serves as a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets, co-directs the Poetry Program of the Community of Writers and teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California.

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