Robert Hamilton

Senso Unico

I am sick of subjectivity. I think
I might go birding. Find one color
on one wing, one mixolydian ditty.
I think I might tinker with electrodes
or glass pipettes. Things clatter down
iron rails, one way. They get beaten out
like gold sheets, thinner now we’ve left
our twenties behind. Once, a god
ran his finger around my lips
like a man trying to make a wine glass sing:
taste of saltpeter, lemongrass, zinc.
I spent a night between two saguaros
as the rain carved runnels through blue
slate. I probably never will again.
I am sick of all of this, all. I think
I might try to mount myself in
a display case. I think I’ll try to make
a real difference. So I wave my hand
before the motion-activated sensor,
but no water flows, no towel
dispenses, nothing changes.

Predator & Prey

First midwinter hunt. Earth strung, wound around pegs. Resonant. Land taut as a drumskin. On the hollow roof of the world we learn the trigger’s tensile strength: cold, blue, it resists even as it begs the finger to shake & shake in its turn the forearm, the shoulder, the whole self. We learn how snow muffles all but the sounds that ping in our skulls or sluice through arteries, traffic in an imbrication of intermittent jams, diesel fumes making us dizzy. We spent miserable hours crouched in an outdoor shower removing the ink from our flesh with a fragment of pumice. One cannot be too careful. We strip the angular mountains from my forearm, the tree of knowledge from the girl’s thigh & line after line of unreadable text from her scapulæ; ink swirls in a slow coriolis spiral around our lukewarm ankles. One cannot be too careful. Qua beast, the mammoth cannot be had, cannot be brought up short by the Bering Strait, cornered, corralled, bled out. Try instead the ancillary screwworms & white lice who braid ropes & locks out of its sequoia-bark pelt. Try instead to sketch out its angular momentum. Try the collage: apprehend as a whole what is not a whole. Seemed possible until the lights went dim & the girl with the asterisk of whip marks across her back cut an opening in the top of the tent. Blood of stars drips through the tear in the thick lead apron of the sky which, every night, we button up with a little white-fog cough of a prayer & a censer burning balsam as if beseeching our little hand-carved idols with their primitivist eye sockets to keep out the bequerels pressing their bulk up against us, trying to pour in. The text on the girl’s back reappeared, in a phosphorescent glow. The mercury lies in undisturbed pools & for lack of a better idea we don our anoraks & splash. No angel to breathe on this stagnation. May as well keep to your stretchers & your lazar-house. The cicadas are silent now & the Ding an Sich cannot be had, not in its own guise but perhaps (we are told, as if to get rid of us) in the disguise of some appliqué angel or blue ankh whose meaning nobody has quite parsed. Not roaming the wild but caught in a little snow globe with our own figurines hunting a brown little smudge of a beast. We tell ourselves, look, that is us, innocent, jejune, with such sand-scrubbed skin, such cobalt veins, visible under flourescent bulbs! But across green felt the snow globe rolls away & the black spheres that come skittering after the cue’s clack are glassy, vacant like the eyes of the creatures we killed. Staring, they beat the tympanum of the world’s surface, stretched thin over nothing, & engrave their tekels & upharsins on the parchment. They push with their horns, beg for extraordinary rendition. We join hands & close our eyes & the black we see, squinting, has (does it not) the vanishing points & contour lines of certain doubled shotgun barrels. Against the cold of such blued metal, breath shows like visible clouds. The finger pressing hard against the trigger, shaking with dread, such palsy fills a world & more.

Labor Theory of Value

Punch in, punch out; slam that cold box like you hate it. Forearms flexed in anger, veins a blue watershed, agricultural zone of tattoos, each ink its own cultivar. They come from Kronstadt out of the hulls of triremes, rank male sweat, skimming over the blue Baltic. They come down from favelas garlanded in primary colors, corrugated necklaces draped over hills’ shoulders. They come up like dry bones that live from the city hospitals, staggering through the sliding doors in a burst of air conditioning in frankincensed sheets; hard work, we say, hauling up soul after soul from this cold cenote with only block & tackle. Down here, they have cut our power. Uphill, automatic sprinklers still hiss and chatter across empty lawns. A woman in a rich tweed skirt hugs her knees on a louis-quinze settee, one strand of hair loose on the hot forehead. Smell the fear under vetiver. Hear the sprinklers chatter & spurt like Kalashnikovs. With his discriminating beak Horus will soon weigh her bars of platinum, judge them against an amphora brimming with graveyard sweat. See which tips the scales. Clench your fist until the knuckles turn white. Dollars ooze out between each finger & slice the webbing between. Punch out. Punch in again. Good morning, Ralph. Oh, uh, good morning, Sam.

Robert Hamilton is a poet and English Professor from Texas. His first chapbook, Heart Trouble, was published by Ghost City Press in 2018. His poems have appeared in journals like Prelude, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, concîs, and The Fictional Café.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.