Poetry from Steven Hill

Where the Gods reside
	   (for Jeffrey, too soon)

The mountains 
assuage our sorrow 
for not being one of them,
we climb their eternity and perspire, 
and grind our efforts into them, and 
	they are so vast, they can hold it.

The craggy peaks crouch, 
ancient souls birthed in the sea, 
a distant ship fading over the horizon,
sometimes you 
were a mountain to me.

Sometime, just before the euphoria of Spring,
all things growing 
must spend time on their knees.
At this time the mountains thunder, 
the road begins to climb toward a scraping fury,
the bruised sky flashes in lightning-crossed patterns, 
	like my life before my eyes,
	like my aching alone,
the late fall of snow buries 
	your name on your gravestone.

Yet a glimmer of starlight still arrives,
	ancient beam from a time
	before our time, 
reminder of our place in this
	galaxy of infinity, 
at this time I lick stones we had saved
	-- why shouldn’t I    
for, not comprehending stone, 
how can I apprehend the heights?

From the peaks I espy, 
the valley below in fog,
where a silent God resides, a
	lone steeple poking above the prologue,
one day soon I will cross over the divide,
holding my breath to glimpse the Other Side,
hoping you’ll be there, 
	through End’s dream door, awaiting.

Beautiful interregnum: 
the Sin of Forgetfulness
		      By Steven Hill 

This Wannsee lake grows deep and dark,
	a ribbon of history cutting through the present,
rippled only by streaks of the sun’s setting,
watchful vigil, the shore lights wink on.
	Sparkles of first stars remind me of you, 
and the light you lent me to face this dark,  
when the human condition is perplexing, like
	an ungovernable algorithm,
rattling my glass heart, yearning for our native soil. 
Across the lake is the growing shadow of the Haus 
whose name must never be forgotten,
where unspeakable things were decided 
and factored into the price -- 
	“too many bullets wasted, we need more efficiency,
		the latest gas technology, what percent Jew” --
over schnitzel, schnapps and ice.

Past or future? I wish you were here, my love,
	to help me locate the proper response
to this reminder of the failure of democratic deliverance;
triumph of technocracy, rulers and the ruled,
my courage hesitates before this ancient genuflect,
	before authoritarians capturing the overwhelming questions,
dangling promises of the previous resurrection
	a perfect that by definition never arrives.
So we default to bloodline gurgling in our veins,
yield to the wild, chasing us in our dreams, 
amidst animal psychology, survival, battle,  
the lure of the borderline defends the tribe,
another hominid line dead end,
civilization offers no answer, or excuse,
for a populist architecture outrun by its fears,
grown tangled and inbred with its use.

In the last light I hear, whispers from the dark lake,
voices from the deep past gone:

“This is where human hands have been
	This is where human paths have led
What was violated, what held sacred;
Where the irreversible decision
When the wrong turn to our fate
Which the lie that tricked our humanity
How blind the line between ‘reap’ and ‘rape.’”

Suddenly a butterfly alights on the barbed wire fence, 
proof that in the stillness you watch over me still,
my heart beats inside, without need of a guide,
History’s arrow still aims for the sun.
Wannsee Haus fades into the falling dusk,
its shadow-hulk silent, a black hole of memory,
Past, future, try to suture the moment 
inspired hands bury the footprints of fear. 

For even if we are not perfect, 
	or at least not as perfect as we need to be,
even if Paradise remains Lost, with no hint of the telling,
even if the lights in the distance
	are the coals of the enemy campfire,
still we journey to this crossroads place, 
to this promised lands place,
	awaiting sunrise to illuminate,
	inhaling the spread of atoms,
	watching the boat lights, bouncing on the lake water
standing on this foreign shore, thinking of you.

In these moments, my love, I am certain in my bones, 
I am glad I shared this life with you.

Passing out of the world’s memory
no one will survive who remembers us.
We are sentenced to exit the ring,
and then to be forgotten, amidst forgetfulness. 


		Road to nowhere
		    By Steven Hill 

Where does that road go?
Cuts through the dry valley and over the top,
peak after peak jags away 
	from my 30,000 foot high spot.
The thin line zags, like a seismic crack,
winding through the wilderness
	of red mesas and buttes,
	meandering oxbows and gullied arroyos, 
a vastness where a thirst for hope could get lost. 
Landscape whispering in ancient tongues,
pulsing in E flat, 47 octaves below middle C, 
	the lowest hum of the revolving earth
	barely detectable from my flyover perch, 
whispers the unspeakable of lost tales, 
of human dust and bone shard artifacts,
	come and gone and
	gone gone like a stutter in the dry wind. 
Dust devils swirling above a faultline that opens 
	and swallows a thousand lifetimes of diligence, 
leaving no trace but the unsettling vibrato
	of silence. 

Yet still to somewhere that black crack goes!
My eyes follow it toward oblivion, but wait -- 
Is that a house -- tucked into the valley fold? 
	A small bump of civilization poking up 
		from the terrain’s climb?
What kind of human would live so far from anywhere,
surrounded by the chocolate dust and layers
	of geologic years and fossilized nowheres?

But no, no. Not a house at all.
	Just another wrinkle in that vast corrugated land. 

To where does that road to nowhere go?
		Valley of the Flower
     (for the Covid dead)

Between the horror and the horror
lies the valley of the flower,
	purple and orange sprinkle the landscape with hope,
fresh green sprigs poke through
	the snow crust melting,
winter-cracked faces seek the warmth of climbing sun.

We huddled in our tents, while the blizzard piled high
hungry eyes fearing, the dwindling of our rations.
Suffering the casualties between mistrust and panic 
our wavering humanity, prayed for our salvation.

At first bonded, by the gene of solidarity,
we held firm hands, and swore unanimity,
but hunger scratches from the inside-out,
	shows no mercy to pleas or prayers,
poverty of plenty laughed most bitterly,
the desperation in our eyes screamed 
what we refused to say: 

	how could one’s soul survive the coming atrocity?

Soon our haven became our depraved prison,
so on the 30th day many of us fled.
	Gaunt and desperate, rationality eaten,
left the horror of the Unknown for
	the terror of the Unknowable.
Stumbling on brute instinct up the snow-choked trails,
clawing across the tundra between two jagged peaks,
	menacing giants jutting sharply like teeth, 
we scavenged across the whiteout wilderness.

Civilization collapsed as the Animal returned,
	howling at the moon, yellow fangs bared,
shadows hissing in thrums of a heartbeat
eyes fixated on the necks of the ones in front. 
Slogging blindly through the driving sleet
rags wrapped around, blackened frostbit feet,
we longed for when last we basked 
	under the warmth of the golden sun-fall:

The flaxen fields had supplied the summer harvest
The world had been new in each other’s arms
the family of humanity fed by a cornucopia
	scales of justice weighed the balance of the light; 
wisdom of elders translated the guiding stars
a gentle compact held the Demon-hounds at bay
peace between the tribes fed by shared prosperity
ecumenical faith in the rainbow of the light. 

But now the frigid Mask of Death
is chasing and stalking our darkened souls,
prisoners of our internal struggle 
	to put one frozen foot in front of the other. 
Each disappearance under the cover of night
	becomes a snow-buried mound by the grey morning light, 
survivors awaited the next date with the grave,
guilty of human practices of survival,
red claw Nature, brawling for hegemony, 
mercy froze inside the tears of our deprival. 

Yet silence greeted our prayers to God: 
	“Merciful One, why have you forsaken us,
	left us alone to face this muted roar,”
chased by the inhumanity of our sapien fears,
each panicked moment faced the final door. 

Finally at the edge of earth and sky,
between the craggy peaks where an indifferent God slept,
where our courage cowered, scarred with awe
where the struggle was waged, most terrible and raw,
as the last of the last of us stumbled through the grey, 
searching for green poking through the snowy graves,
	moment after moment hung 
	with only phantoms in sight --

finally, there it was, in the breaking of the light –

	the lone petal pushing up through the snow crystal.

Barely visible, a glint of orange, 
	steadfast and alive,
and then another, and then purple,
trail of green tips, beckoning the deprived.
Hope replaced the hunger of the primal,
	sunlight brilliant off its spring thaw wings, 
stumbling forward, from flower to warm flower,
orange to purple amidst the sun-fall shower.
How quickly had collapsed our democratic covenant,
	sculpted over centuries, melted away in days,
scientists will search for the remains of our route,
an apostles’ dozen went in, only a handful came out. 

We have passed this way before, 
	the Devil always dancing for a chance to resurrect,
		hostage to the brutish craving, to eat lest you be eaten,

while God never answered our prayer,
	so we gave thanks to the sun
		which does not care.