062.1: H.L. Hix:: Curses, Riddles & First Confession from Harvey of the Pious and Patriotic Hix Family & As I Always Do, As How Could I Not 062

In ”Curses, Riddles,” H.L. Hix writes: "I call you / by the wrong name / on purpose." I love that, since a dear friend and I have jokingly called him by a silly nickname for years: Hillbilly Hix. And while he is of small town Southern upbringing—with all the requisite charm—the nickname’s clearly ironic. His vast knowledge of literature, politics, music and so many other topics high and low proves that undoubtedly. However, a nickname based on a purposefully mistaken identity is fitting when considering his astonishing poems, which so often invoke other voices.

In speaking to others' poems, the poems below create voices that are uniquely universal and truly profound. For example, in “First Confession from Harvey of the Pious and Patriotic Hix Family,” he writes: "And I talk to myself, out loud, / when no one is near (and no one ever is)." Countless voices whispering in our ears, here: Hix’s, Mustafa Zvizdic’s (who inspired the piece) and, most importantly, our own, which we’ve all used to talk aloud to ourselves in moments of solitude.

Hix himself said that he is “trying to actively resist developing a schtick that can be repeated ad nauseum.” Allowing others to inspire him—especially so many international poets his readers might not recognize—brings a distinctive perspective to each piece that is at once novel and exotic but also, and entirely, Hixian.

Or Hillbillyesque, if you’d prefer. Jessica Piazza

Curses, Riddles

(After Omar Pérez López)

From a flicker fallen to a cat,
three patterned primaries have blown into my yard.
Or were the other feathers blown away?

For lack of water, yes,
but not for lack of light.

She alone reshaped the earth.

Issue your mandates.
As did Creon.

To reflect off this barely sparrow-sized puddle,
the light has traveled how far?

I call you
by the wrong name
on purpose.

First Confession from Harvey of the Pious and Patriotic Hix Family

(After Mustafa Zvizdic)

I didn’t mean to fall away.
I own no whit of defiance.
I am, though, afraid of everything.
Others have a lucky amulet
attached to their key chain, or,
on a necklace they wear every day,
a ring from a lover. I have my fear.
I carry it in my left front pocket,
always, because (of course)
I am afraid to leave it behind.
I couldn’t carry it with me like this
without naming it, so I call it Kasimir,
because it resembles a Russian nobleman
out of Chekhov, with serfs who scythe
his sazhens and sazhens of wheat,
but for whom each year it proves
harder and harder to find credit,
and whose estate falls each year
further, more utterly, into disrepair.
It’s me in Benton’s “Persephone,”
keeping a tree between myself
and the most exquisite human body
I will be near ever, making sure
she doesn’t know I am there,
afraid to speak, afraid to ask her name.
And I talk to myself, out loud,
when no one is near (and no one ever is).
How could they not distrust you,
you who cannot look yourself in the eye?
Even in first grade your fear was visible,
and gave away to Miss Cassandra
the failures she rightly foretold.

So I slip through the party,
shuffling sideways, with my arms
above my head to avoid bumping
an elbow that would slosh someone’s drink,
hoping to get out the door
without Whoever Notices noticing.

As I Always Do, As How Could I Not

(After Srecko Kosovel)

Here, a husk once housefly,
dry on the sill in brittle sunlight.
Here, a two-summers-past nest,
first shred-built, then frost-shredded.
Here, down wisped from a not-to-return.

Here, now, how could I not
relive how then and for all you left,
lifting off, the first of a flock
from a lake, past harvest row, over leaf-fall.