Hill Country

Tracy K. Smith

He comes down from the hills, from
The craggy rock, the shrubs, the scrawny
Live oaks and dried-up junipers. Down
From the cloud-bellies and the bellies
Of hawks, from the caracaras stalking
Carcasses, from the clear, sun-smacked
Soundlessness that shrouds him. From the
Weathered bed of planks outside the cabin
Where he goes to be alone with his questions.
God comes down along the road with his
Windows unrolled so the twigs and hanging
Vines can slap and scrape against him in his jeep.
Down past the buck caught in the hog trap
That kicks and heaves, bloodied, blinded
By the whiff of its own death, which God—
Thank God—staves off. He downshifts,
Crosses the shallow trickle of river that only
Just last May scoured the side of the canyon
To rock. Gets out. Walks along the limestone
Bank. Castor beans. Cactus. Scat of last
Night’s coyotes. Down below the hilltops,
He squints out at shadow: tree backing tree.
Dark depth the eyes glide across, not bothering
To decipher what it hides. A pair of dragonflies
Mate in flight. Tiny flowers throw frantic color
At his feet. If he tries—if he holds his mind
In place and wills it—he can almost believe
In something larger than himself rearranging
The air. He squints at the jeep glaring
In bright sun. Stares a while at patterns
The tall branches cast onto the undersides
Of leaves. Then God climbs back into the cab,
Returning to everywhere.

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Tracy K. Smith is the author of the memoir Ordinary Light (Knopf, 2015) and three books of poetry: Life on Mars, which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, Duende, winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award, and The Body’s Question, winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. A recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, a Whiting Award, and an Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, she is the director of the Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University and the current Poet Laureate of the United States.

Harvard Review

Number 51

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Editor: Christina Thompson
Poetry Editor: Major Jackson
Fiction Editor: Suzanne Berne
Managing Editor: Chloe Garcia Roberts

In the more than two decades since it was launched, Harvard Review has emerged as a major American literary journal. Contributors to the journal include such well-known figures as Arthur Miller, John Updike, Jhumpa Lahiri, J. M. Coetzee, Seamus Heaney, Gore Vidal, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Andrea Barrett, and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as those making their literary debut. Recent selections have been anthologized in: Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best New Poets, Best Canadian Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize Anthology.

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