The Torrid Zone
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

R. Nemo Hill

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).

His poetry and fiction have appeared in various journals including Poetry, Sulfur, Smartish Pace, Measure, and Big City Lit.

He lives and works in New York City, but travels frequently to Southeast Asia

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The Heat

In a recurring fantasy
I am painting pictures
of figures with halos.
“It’s the heat,” I suppose
(classic tropical disclaimer)
turning even ordinary folk
into radiant hyper-ventilating saints—
forging an individual nimbus, golden, glowing,
for each of the ants
busy hauling and hoisting likewise luminous crumbs
across the furnace of my porch.
It’s the heat shimmer, of course,
the bright trembling shadow of
equatorial everything.

(Andong, Bali—1991)


The Silks

Flat on my back on my bed
beneath the spiral of air
stirred by the ceiling fan,
the thin billowing silk of my paisley shorts
is a delicious complement
to the equally thin sting of my sunburned skin—
the silk of pleasure caressing the silk of pain.
Oh! The silks! The silks!
How shall I ever master renunciation?
It’s the very thinness of all sensation
that makes its play of empty shadows
so irresistibly beautiful.
I guess I’m doomed to return
in my next incarnation
as a pair of panties or a handkerchief—
my pale blue or deep green silk
as I hang
for years
on a clothesline
in the brutal sun
of this corrupt and lovely world.

(Kuta, Bali—1993)