Poem: ‘[to the voice of the age]’

Brenda Hillman responds to the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

dandelion blowing seeds in the sky

In the first six months of the pandemic, I thought often about characterizations of world history, world events, and how poets make accounts during crises. The philosopher Hegel was often in mind, his idea of the world soul. I was also rereading the book of Revelation and thinking about racialized violence at the root of our history. The perceptions of things floating across the various screens and landscapes were often markers. This poem is part of a sequence of 24 poems I worked on to weave a sense of dailiness and eternity, solitude and community.•

This poem appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Alta Journal.

They gave up their fear of sincerity

They gave up  their decorated nights

Evening birdsong had folded into chalk

Evening shadows grew less white

        We’d been faithful mostly
      to our own special tribe

    Couldn’t keep the burned forests alive

Of the beasts of the apocalypse  one was light green

It was a dream  We didn’t choose that

We chose the rat  the cat  the fox  the past

& when we sang to ourselves  the song went

    What is the voice of the age my friends
What is the age of the voice
  Adenine  Cytosine Guanine  Uracil
The voice of the age  is a fragment

O sea of glass  Cart of straws   O air

        round as the love of moths

    Hard to forgive certain centuries my friends

The age of the voice is the choices
The voice of the page is the voices

O love song  in an old blue cart

    Wheel of ciphers  wheel of eyes
Wheel of beauty  code & blues
    The voice of the age is the voices

for G

Brenda Hillman’s most recent book is Extra Hidden Life, among the Days.
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