Orders of Magnitude by H.L. Hix




























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Perfect Hell
H.L. Hix

I set god free from the owl that waited
too late and rose too slow.  Two days later
from the pronghorn that tried to stop but slid
across wet asphalt in front of my truck.
Now god speaks again, from the pendulum
tracing earth's arc in sand, from the rhythmic
rap-rapping of the roofer's air hammer,
from the squeals of girls on a trampoline.
I set god free to speak to me again.
I no longer understand, but I hear.

God's two wills, 'Screen Door Banging in the Wind'
and 'Melting Snow Sliding off a Windshield,'
will learn how to hear each other across
seasons and unlikeness.  Got to kill.  Turn
now: this wind means more banging.  No slow snow
sloping down will shield you.  Wait for more heat.
God, you still mean screen door, t-shirt, low rent,
earn our roof the wrong way, sweat stains, sweet shame
the color of blood.  I will get you back.
Got to know how.  God, too, will learn to bow.

From frozen tarn to marmot's cries to moose
everything said 'mountain mountain mountain'
in the sun-silvered morse of my own breath.
Everything said I'll breathe before my death
the very days he breathed before my birth.
Loud the sky sounds from inside.  The sky shouts
the boy he played baseball with after work
plays ball with someone else's boy today.
No spent life wholly lost, no frost not now
another's cold breath.  The clouds said I could climb.

Only after the drifts covered the car
did I know I would die there.  Snow stores light.
Even under a twelve-foot drift, at night,
in a storm, after the frostbite has reached
your ankles, snow glows.  Dimly, but it glows,
loaded with bright angels that floated down,
jellyfish adrift in a cold black sea.
I gave in to sleep, already chalk, white
under layers of lives that will rise up
in ten million years to glint in the sun.



H.L. HIX teaches philosophy at Kansas City Art Institute. His first poetry book, PERFECT HELL, won the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize, and was published in 1996 by Gibbs Smith.  More recently, Aralia Press has published a limited edition entitled INTELLECTUAL PLEASURES.

These four poems, like the ones in INTELLECTUAL PLEASURES, are from a 100-poem sequence called "Orders of Magnitude," in which each poem is ten lines long, and each line ten syllables.