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Nick Hilbourn

Cinq poèmes


Another man’s heart

(Mitchell Street, Loris, SC, August 2007)

Rolling his finger along a swollen line 

of ruddy flesh and fresh stitches 

in the center of his chest,

staring at the ceiling, 

eyes cauterized 

in reverent fear.

The old man said to me,

“Do you know what it’s like to have another man’s heart inside of you?”

“No sir,” I said, looking for some gloves.

He said, “It’s like a flight of birds moving through your body.”


I found my gloves,

but when I turned around 

he was gone

disappeared through a crack in the hospital window

and left behind a small bag of skin crumpled on top of the bed

like swimmer’s clothes on the shore



New Years To Come

(Bethel Road, Darlington SC September 2008)

I think that you are seeing what steps are right for right now

and what people are all roughly the same and you trust, for each moment, 

that this season is not necessarily the best light of all time but it decorates,

nonetheless, the untouched curtains with pollocks of stink bugs dampening 

a habitual renewal hides itself away, not necessarily out of fear but in silence waiting to hear 


how best to move an August cold rolling over into the guest bedroom where 

time wads up inside your stomach through airborne transmissions accrued 

from a droll grief entangled in passing school buses just outside the curling window glass.


I have a hideous expectation of new years to come, arriving in the early morning 

dew on the front porch, covering the plastic bag protecting the newsprint. 

Thirty minutes from the city our knowing plains all understanding in green 

along tobacco rivers sutured by spindly electrical joints.  The skies darken

with a new cloud born from a rail line, from a tired hand or a landowner, who

despite a long absence, returns to gather what deservéd workers have earned

their entrance fee.  I think, I said, that you see…


Low Thread Count Country

(Cherokee Road, Florence, SC, March 2009)

Three deer pass through the arms of the milky way, the dirty white sky 

wraps the naked coal streets downtown in celluloid layers: recursive cinema eyes refuse 

to pare down the concrete monster which broadens into ribbons of digestion: a system 

that births an untamed traffic of roman candle kids who eject themselves under the 

supervision of a satellite commercial horizon into a grid of economic asphalt with a 

consciousness that hibernates in debt and emerges consistently in monetary bodies of 

inherited doom.


Three deer pass over quiet lawns slumbering in hound dog meditation with lips 

fluttering like a flag with low thread counts.  Bodies metallicizing in gentrified 

moonlight, warming everything in vanilla shadows, curling like bass clefs, escaping the 

downbeat of the underground, eating the remainder of the weekend’s work, looking for 

large plots where their future dead can gallop.  Meanwhile, the roman candle kids are 

surging through screens of information, quietly discerning their own place in the 

infographic pillories, quivering fingers over gelatin complexions, evaporating sleep 

from their electric faces.  Outside a neon pre-religion is moving past their windows.  


Three metallic deer lose shape when they curve into a cotton field off-grid, when their 

silver wash of fur breathlessly conjugates the night, when they avoid the macadam 

intestinal tract, where there is no food or no potable water but only the lips of Main 

Street as it quietly plows the name of Jesus into some compromise with doom, when the 

smell of carbon leaves teeth in the air.


Something waits for them all.  Not the iron barrel. The clawed ghost of hunger.  A 

match alights in a field of bare flesh.  It’s not clear how far the blaze will reach.  Houses 

are in the shape of fireplaces.  The night with all its organs seems to cause itself.


Vanishing Point

(Meadow Street, October 2007)

Metallic flocks of drifting bodies circulate the airless infinity.

The subspace of knowledge.  The graveyard of color.  I can look

at my parents’ house at anytime and the birds sing to me.  I can look

at the lawn browning in what could be autumn and the truck in the driveway

in what could be lunchtime in a time before my father retired, in a time before

they disappeared from the nuclear life of the town.  The line between the eye

of the mindless floating stone tracing an exact angle between this point in time

and the time I study it in from an untangled moment in the future.  Orthogonal 

metaphysics. One frozen moment becomes a vanishing point, arrives at nothingness if 

studied incessantly. No one comes out of the house and the yard maintains the future 

lines chewed by the lawnmower and even I am there, driving home from work along the 

adjacent highway.  I always remember the past as a Polaroid.  At that point I know 

I stood in the middle of the yard and studied a flock of geese, a vanishing point to them

and, therefore, able to better study their magnitude, their unseen specification of an 

invisible destination.  Colors blending with fingerprint oils.  Orthogonal metaphysics.

At any point, I can watch this image, taken and buried in the homeless migration

of an algorithmic brain.  I can meditate on it.  How barren the origin becomes when 

it loses

all sense of dimension.


Nuclear Blankets

(Darlington, SC, October 2008)

Quiet grows in the fields on the drive home.

The sideview mirror shows fungi rising in the west 

in a plume of orange smoke.  Slow but steady.

Teeth grow in the fall heat passing through the open window

and cause the afternoon air to grow coarse. There are no

speed limit signs, so my foot grows heavier.

The clouds go to seed.  Families are hidden in the grass.

A small house would go fine in the absent face of pine.

A man is sitting with a steering wheel forgetting his own virtue.

The autumn cold makes him want to own something.

In the rearview mirror are pre-patterned plots, narrative and otherwise.  

Houses with small yards set out like TV dinners.  Everyone facing 

one direction, watching a blanket of advancing sunrise consume time 

molecule by molecule.  This is a slow apocalypse.  Slow but steady.

Each day something disappears but not everything, not all at once. 

This is a compassionate ending.  Love becomes something vertiginous 

that leaves the player dizzy and unable to wake from a somnambulance 

of direction.  Each night is a pole shift.  Each morning starts with a meditation

on disbelief:  Gods of mortgage, who have no belief in themselves, 

choke penitents on thick rolls of paperwork that we are all destined to become.  

Sleep forests populate these realms and people migrate to them 

in the hope of being laid side-by-side 

in the cloud farms of quiet harvests growing in next year’s next year



Nick Hilbourn's work has recently appeared in Maudlin House, Rain Taxi and Prairie Schooner.  He has two chapbooks:  Webster County (Alien Buddha Press, 2023) and Pacha (Kattywompus Press, 2018).  He writes about modern poetry on his blog,

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