R. Nemo Hill
lives in New York City, but travels extensively in Southeast Asia each year, where his experiences have run the gamut from intestinal bleeding to intellectual ecstasy.
He is convinced that during a violent thunderstorm in Bali (which blew everyone’s roof off but his own), his house in the rice paddies was struck by lightning. That might explain the fact that he is the author of a novel, Pilgrim’s Feather (Quantuck Lane Press, 2002), a narrative poem, The Strange Music of Erich Zann (Hippocampus Press, 2004), and a chapbook, Prolegomena To An Essay On Satire (Modern Metrics, 2006); and that his poetry and fiction have appeared in such venues as Poetry, Sulfur, Measure, 14 by 14, and The Literary Bohemian. During the storm, the single bulb on the porch, extinguished at the time, crackled with light, then went dark once more. Nothing was ever the same again.
His travel journal is called Elsewhere.
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On the pavement just outside your door at dawn—
a double twist of dirty humped up nylon,
two suitcases, two stocking caps pulled down
towards facelessness, a cardboard sign hand-drawn:
“NO moNey and no tickET,” a paper cup,
and a city poised to shake the still life up.
Your hands are in your pockets, jingling change.
Both sleepers shift and slightly rearrange
their sanctuary. Bits of skin appear,
one pale wrist caked with filth, a reddened ear.
And on one trembling eyelid—one thin line
of tarnished silver glinting through the grime.
There’s warmth in that embrace, and even glamour.
An hour or more of city morning clamor
and you return to find them sitting there,
awake now—not quite smiling—as you stare
at the single bag of cookies that they share,
and the trace of henna lighting up her hair.
(Election Day, New York City—2008)
To His Landlord
(Julius Eastman, 1940-1990)
Perhaps you don’t remember him at all.
Such two-bit low-life losers come and go.
You used to ambush him out in the hall
demanding your back rent. He’d answer slow
and easy, quoting scripture with a sigh:
the Camel and the Needle’s Eye. Yeah—. Sure—.
The one with all the cats, the skinny black guy
in leather pants who never locked his door.
You blamed it then on drugs and alcohol.
But I guess you don’t remember now at all.
Nah. I really can’t expect you to recall.
But even if you did—how could you know
that in that doorless closet piled with trash
a hibernating Grail lay lost below
the dirty clothes and cat shit: a sacred cache
of scores, handwritten scores—which music scholars
are reconstructing now from rare cassettes,
transcribing notes by ear. It seemed mere squalor,
the day the Marshals hauled it out and set
the whole mess on the curb. Sad episode.
Such no-count nameless losers come, then go.
There really was no way that you could know.
And yet I can’t help wondering: might you care?
It’s been what? Twenty years? And still I see you,
out bicycling in skin tight Lycra-wear.
You’re keeping fit. That’s smart. You smile more too.
I’d like to tell you just what was inside
those plastic bags dragged from apartment four.
I want to say: he’s fabled now, that guy
who never paid his rent or locked his door.
You look right through me as if I’m not there.
And even if I told you—could you care?
I almost spoke today. But didn’t dare.
(New York City—2007)