Listen to Brenda Hillman read her poem “After a Very Long Difficult Day” on Slate.com
After a Very Long Difficult Day
You talk to your loved ones
at night. It is a kind of modernism:
color sees into you, thinks a warm
path, a tint of meaning brought
from how you feel. Then, you are double:
the owl calls out, tyto alba,
in your sleep—scrip scrr—heart-shaped face
emitting loose nouns … Under its turf,
the smart mouse turns; the fierce dead
merge with the recently born
where earlier they emptied what you seek—
How will you be known? Some
registered complaints. You passed them
in the hallway, their new haircuts.
The bosses are known by new wars.
What salmon are left hurry upstream—
cold swaths in the bay. Linnets, by
rose fire at the edges—(linnet or finch?
the word edge has wings made of “e”);
the moon rests in a mantle
of minutes, its boundaries in back
of the trees. Boundaries
are known by their nothings—;
you will be known by your dreams.
Brenda Hillman is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Practical Water. She is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif.