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poetry by Greg Hill

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After Love

by Greg Hill

 

 

You are to love one another, came the commandment. But some were too far in the back of the crowd to hear, so a message relay was requested. One stood up, turned around, and repeated what he had heard. There was a clamor near this speaker, for a few of his words were slightly different than what some thought they had heard the first time. It was decided quickly, by a few of the elders, that a committee should be gathered to confirm exactly what was said and what, if any, translations could be counted official. But you know what happens next: there’s discontent about who gets invited, various factions break off, each employing a different method of counting votes, several favoring just the heads of family, others allowing representation for adult males only, some discounting 40% the voting power of certain individuals based on skin color. Children are born into a community that knows only its moral certitude, which translates poorly across rivers and oceans, and means a slaughter of innocents who were bred to interpret their charge differently. Money changes hands, along with votes and allegiances. Discord erupts into conflict, conflict into battle, battle into war, treasuries collecting taxes to grow the hungry machine. There are others who come later, who try to capture some spirit of the original message, using words like “care” or “respect” or “peace” yet journalistic integrity must bow before cost margins, the success of which is necessary to deliver the corporate message to the people, so pitiful messages of tolerance and redistribution are rightly squashed. Clouds pass over, and days, and seasons and years and new calendars are formed and displaced by even newer ones but still the victors maintain their rectitude, even as philosophies bloom and wither, clans and kingdoms and empires and multinationals. It is so severe, this loving of one another, so as to be unrecognizable, though of course that is not the point, since it is victory that has led us here, righteousness that has given value to the status quo, to the structures and systems and weapons stockpiles that must be fortified against all enemies, enemies destroyed at all cost, costs driven by market, markets to protect the inheritance of what is right and good, for the sake of principle, for the purpose of discipline, for the flag of love that waves tirelessly over the corpses of infidels, of martyrs, of unbelievers; the diffident, the different, the dependent and misled; the huddled, the tired and the damn poor.

 

 

Song to the Hemlocks

 

I sing a song to the hemlocks
in the shade where the river
bends. Sail down, small notes,
with the flashing fins of fly-fish trout
and rowing boats,
past cold and austere rocks,
past glade ferns, golden farms,
the dances of their fields, then out beyond
the fertile loam where the current ends
and the splashing foam of the tide begins.

 

 

 

Alarm Clock

 

The alarm clock,
however, gets up earlier,
preparing for its purpose
like the pubescent teenager
jogging up the summer
camp’s grassy hill
with his bugle
to play Reveille.
Most working adults
have something negative
to say about the way
they are woken up
in the morning.
The not-quite-gentle
touch of open palm
to snooze alarm
is passive aggressive,
like a handshake—
one that gives
the appearance of
nice to meet you,
but has the feel of
shut the hell up
and don’t come back.

 

 

BIO

Greg Hill is an educator, adjunct professor of English, math tutor, and voice over talent in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and his work has appeared in Atlas and Alice, Barzakh, Cargo Literary, Cheap Pop, Grub Street, Past Ten, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Whiskey Island and elsewhere. Thanks to his kids, he has memorized the movies Frozen, Trolls, and Moana. He spends his free time studying quantum mechanics and toki pona.

 

 

 

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