I was an observer of longing. Caught the glint from the green
harbor light and argued for love. I was the delicate dictator, sipping
Gin Fizz and spilling champagne. Sleek shoes spattered by night-
wet grass, cars that looked like carriages. Wondering when you
had gone up the staircase to the uncut library. Someone bustled
inside the butler’s pantry, someone laughed like a bell on the lawn.
I was a hopeless suitor, clutching the hem of your long blue skirt,
offering you cigarettes. There was the tale of perfection and the
tale of disaffection. They mingled like guests until they could not
be divided. I was the storyteller, stumbling on separation. Along
the lakeshore silted with lights, a hand running along a spine. You
were absent at your own celebration, called away to the juniper
grove. Fingers ringed with glass. You said your own voice was full of
pennies; I scoured the grounds until I learned what you meant.
Copyright © 2017 by Hillary Gravendyk
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Hillary Anne Gravendyk (1979-2014) was born in Manhattan Beach, California and grew up in Snoqualmie Valley, Washington State. She attended Tulane and the University of Washington and went on to get a doctorate in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2008, her chapbook The Naturalist came out from Achiote Press and in 2010, her book Harm, published by Omnidawn, was a finalist for the California Writer’s Exchange Award. In 2009, she was hired to teach 20th Century poetry at Pomona College in Claremont, California. After moving to Oakland in 2003 with her husband Benjamin Burrill, Hillary lived out most of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area and Claremont.
In Hillary Gravendyk’s The Soluble Hour, the speaker sings with visionary passion how the beloved and dear ones will soon be without her and laments for their imminent grief. But being in extremis pulls the voice towards testimony of unquestioned love, a recollection of landscapes Californian and otherwise, and previous selves. The poet wields her deep solitude as the measure of truth and conviction, the self that accepts its own impermanence.
“The lyric here is both cry and love song. These deeply felt and precise poems cry for the beloved, knowing the beloved will soon be bereft.”
“These poems are not restrained by the illness of a poet taken from us too soon, but rather are energized by an abiding interest in the special kind of presence, of the embodied phenomenology that illness makes possible…. These poems synthesize defiance and resignation, building toward intensities that obtain clarity at the most precarious of moments.”
“In Hillary Gravendyk’s astonishing, posthumously published book of metamorphoses, both body and language enter into the cycles of transformation…. These are poems of relation, the I tenderly addressing a you, and they were in their composition already aware of the unfathomable distance they would ultimately have to cross.”