Le altre lingue: Canada (le aree anglofone) – Robert Hilles

Secondo capitolo della rubrica “Le altre lingue” dedicata al Canada anglofono. Il poeta selezionato da Antonio D’Alfonso è Robert Hilles. Buona lettura.

Robert Hilles (2)

Robert Hilles won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Cantos from a Small Room and his novel, Raising of Voices, won George Bugnet Award. His second novel, A Gradual Ruin, was published by Doubleday Canada. He won the Stephan Stephansson Award for his new and selected book of poems called, Wrapped Within Again. His books have also been shortlisted for The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Prize, The W.O. Mitchell/City of Calgary Prize, The Stephan Stephansson Award, and The Howard O’Hagan Award. He has published fifteen books of poetry, three works of fiction and two non-fiction books. His latest poetry books are Partake (2010) and Time Lapse (2012). His next poetry collection, Woven, will appear in 2017. He is currently working on a novel set in Thailand tentative called, Our Silken Finery.

Robert Hilles – five poems

Singing in Traffic                         
For Austin

When I drop my son off at daycare,
I have the urge to spend the day with him,
to follow him around so I can see
how he acts when I’m not there.
Sometimes when he plays he seems
a creature all of his own making
and his father makes no sense at all.
Other times, when he sits on my lap
watching TV, I wonder will I become him
one day, young and hopeful again.
All I see now are lives thrown
apart by wind, earth or war
and children lie alone at night
as around them the world is
altered by too many dreams or not enough.
We fail every day, our children
coming home in the rain are still hopeful
even though each day at school
requires them to give in.

When I pick him up after work,
he is angry and I try to calm him.
He throws himself on the floor
crying and I stand over him
afraid to watch what his anger does.
My own anger slips out too easily.
He continues to cry, shaped
more by that than by me.
We walk holding hands to the car
and he looks into the sky,
laughs as a flock of birds
swoops down from the afternoon sky.
He sings a song as the car
moves out into traffic
and I join him forgetting how little I know
about the mysteries of his day.
From the back seat his voice drowns out mine
and slowly I stop singing altogether
and just listen for sounds in his voice
I once tried to place there
with a kiss but couldn’t.
He sings as
the traffic around us
forms the frayed edges
of a different world.
At a red light Austin stops singing
and looks at the faces
in the car next to ours
and laughs saying,
“Look, dad, there’s people in that car
just like us and they’re singing too.”

I don’t look in their direction
making sure to be polite,
so I never learn if he is right.
I drive on anyway
waiting eagerly for him to start
singing again knowing
I can never ask him to
without thinking of those people
and knowing it’s not the proof
I lack but the courage
to stop what I am doing.

He doesn’t sing the rest
of the way home
and I look for his face
now and then
in the rear view mirror.
I watch him sit there
his eyes sometimes open
other times closed
and in the front seat
I feel alone not able
to close my eyes even once
all the way home.


First Day of School                 
For Breanne

She looks afraid
not of me but of the camera
as I snap a picture.
Her eyes squint at what the light brings.
Her fingers point to heaven
as she leaves my side
for what the school yard asks of her.

I watch two boys wrestle
and then I turn to see her
shyly standing with a group of girls
exchanging the old ways.
From the outside, the school
appears harmless but inside
the children scurry to places
where they will stay afraid.

She doesn’t want me waiting
at the edge of the school yard like this
although she never looks over to see
if I’m still here.

The children line up
and she does it so naturally I’m frightened.
The two boys continue to tangle
near the fence and a teacher
must separate them.
One of the boys has red hair
like I did as a boy.
Only when Breanne is at the top of the stairs
does she turn back to wave.
Not a long wave but a brief cautious one
just before she vanishes inside the door.

The wipers snap on when I turn the key
and I hear singing
a child’s voice reaching notes
she shouldn’t be able to.
I search the empty school yard
for shadows. I feel it in my fingers first
and then my mouth but I know
there isn’t anything there.

In the picture I took
the school is out of focus
and looks huge behind her.
I count the windows
at her back and imagine
each one a different part of her life.
I see too the question
she asks the camera.
High above her the sky looks pale.
Her hands are closed fists
and I can almost make out
what she is holding.
My tongue caught
in my mouth by surprise.


God Is The Smallest Object                                

God is the smallest object in a room. Some of us see it and speak to it as if it were a pet or a lover. Others imagine it was bigger and could not fit into this room at all. Others still fall in love with it and take it to bed with them every night. Some of us can’t even get into the room at all and must stare at the object from the doorway like a prisoner staring at the sea from their cell window. This object does not move or breathe or even love. It merely thinks about ways to get out of this room for good. It thinks about wings about legs about fingers but none of them is adequate. In the end this object decides that it is stuck in this room for good. Those that truly love it will pick it up and throw it out the window. Those who despise it will try to hide it beneath some large piece of furniture. Most of us, however, will take no notice of it merely sit next to it once in a while and glance at if from the corner of our eyes hoping that sometime we will discover what to do with it.


Ode to Death                      
Thou art a dreaming thing – John Keats

I have been bothered all week
by dreams of my dead father.
Each time I wake
I feel lost in the light that scrambles
to make another day and I know
the dead come back to the living
not to tell them anything
but because they still know the way.

Each time I wake
I remember him in the hospital morgue.
His dead face could not answer me
and still I talked to him and kissed his forehead
as if my warm lips could reach him
hidden so deep within his body.
I wanted to sing a song
the room could hold in its thin air forever,
but the nurse made me feel
like his dead body belonged to everyone but me,
and I left ashamed that only the dead
have taught me about death
and even they could not explain
how I should love them.
Now when I wake it’s my dead father’s face
I remember even if he was alive in the dream.

My father will never see the green yards
in Calgary again or lift his hand
into the sunlight to strum its warmth.
The dead leave no trace to where they’ve gone
and in dreams the living mold
a different world
where death is but a window
the living can look into
and find across the glass
a world like this one,
a strange world and yet
one we can live in.

When I wake from a dream of my father
I wander the house
as if I’ve just come in the wrong door.
I approach his pictures
as I might someone living
and speak to them
expecting his head to nod and his eyes
to come back into focus.
But he doesn’t move
remaining still as all ghosts do.
In my dreams and in my head
he remains alive
even if no one but me can see him
and though he doesn’t move at all
we communicate through stillness
and within my worn out head
we dance without moving
to music nothing more than arteries’ work
and the glorious confusion of love.

Spring bends inside me,
and my father can feel
a fresh green stretch out of me
can smell each flower’s new bloom.
I carry spring for him
and when I sleep he seeks it out.
Even if the dead can’t return
they do all the same
for the living light the way
with dreams.


Love’s Greater Orbit            
For Rain

Feather against cheek
Moist presence
Slide of tongue along skin
You say a prayer
And in this house
The sound of running water
A bird’s slap against a window
And outside insistent green
The earth ripe

Love has stairs
But once there
Drops away on all side
Not a cliff or mountainside
But that one point of light
Sensed in the distance
As though love were a planet
A heavenly body
Pressed in place
And then plucked free
At some moment
Left to dangle
Unattached to anything

You on your iPhone in Thailand
Me in the same room as you
But thousands of miles away in Canada
I take a tributary
And you too
Toward not a water fall
Or rapids
Or even a lake or pond
Or Sargasso sea
But a bump of land
Nothing more than a bump
And then we are standing
Where no one else has stood
Love not so new
It can’t be recognized
And yet this love is unknowable
By anyone but us
You explain how
The more personal and emotional weight
Someone carries
The heavier that weight is
The ego’s weight the heaviest
Reflected in every mirror
You say I can use that idea
And so I do unsure how heavy
Even that is or how much
Weight or burden I carry
Even now I am not certain that
I’ve got it right
Something is missing in the logic of it
And perhaps it is important
That something is missing
Because all I know for certain is
That love is a buoyancy
Weightless and yet heavy

Your eyes light up
In a way I’ve never seen before
Your soul visible in that flash
I feel your hand along my arm
Even though you
Are thousands of miles from here
Such is the nature of love
All the rest merely the clutter
In love’s greater orbit

On my iPhone screen I see
Your room in Thailand
The same room
We shared a month ago
Love is smooth like that
Without corners
Is what shakes
Us fully awake
It is what I glimpse now
Out the west window
The sun has not yet reached
That part of the sky.

In copertina: Robert Hilles.

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