After Reading Edward Curtis’s The Indians of Oklahoma
My great grandfather posed for photos & in his brown eyes I see miles of abstraction.
At Dresden albumen factory, girls did nothing but break eggs & separate the whites which were churned with bromide.
They went through 60,000 eggs a day, a wasted life of shells, the yolks sold for finishing leather.
Curtis would treat the paper with silver nitrate and the negatives of my great grandfather would etch
as the morning light, like a prayer, shaped the images into life.
I’m lost in time, in waves of light seizing the prints, watching my own death before I existed;
I speak to him, sometimes, like a will against abstraction.
I want to hold the men of my family in a protective shell, but I hear bayonets shredding them.
I feel I’ve betrayed my great grandfather & his ghost.
I speak to him sometimes, a willing into blood all this blood, this ghost in me, the passing of epochs
into absence, the mystery of eggs; I speak to him in patterns: my high cheekbones, his dark eyes.
Anima & Shadow
Tsvetaeva says poems grow like stars
—stars, in outlasting us, are unknowable
I don’t know the difference between visions and hallucinations
She had a frenzied wish to become lost in Moscow
—Moscow is the abandoned train tracks cleaved into woods
Grief crushed her again and again and again
Her mother died of tuberculosis, in her lungs a metastasized galaxy
—the galaxy finds no solace searching for sound in the aftermath
How can I ever understand? The earth is all I know
I’m a weed that hungers for a father
more than chromosomes and silence and dust
After the snow melted Lenin seeded plague in kulaks
they caught mice, sparrows, ants, earthworms
ground bones and shoe soles into flour
Tsvetaeava says the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet
in Yelabuga she hanged herself leaving a note for her son:
Forgive me, this is not me anymore
Shamar Hill, a Cave Canem Fellow, is the recipient of numerous awards including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a scholarship from Fine Arts Work Center. He has been published in or has work forthcoming in: The Missouri Review, Washington Square Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Kenyon Review Online. He is working on his first poetry collection, Photographs of an Imagined Childhood, and a memoir, In Defiance of All True Things. Shamar is the Director of Institutional Giving & Stewardship at the Academy of American Poets.
Cover photo by Tom Barrett