The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Dennis Hinrichsen

I Sing Gilgamesh to a New Corruption


                                      and find myself
in an upturned car, pile

of fusion and

thinking night sky is the membrane
of my returning,

but it's the cop’s face,
or the cop’s voice,

done in with questions.
He wants to know Why?

and Who else?
but cannot ask,

so he turns to velocity and the hill,
a cigarette

he has
let me bum punctuating twilight.

Officer, I want to say, I am

wet with the spit of my own becoming.
I will have an animal grief

until that girl nearly beds me,

whore Madonna.
I know she still waits for me,

dancing in a little frame
of wind

beside the river.
So, too, that boy at a stoplight

flipping me
the bird,

his seething all compound bow
and razored arrow,

a grudge of sorrow
and blame.

He wants curved knife in my ribs
and so

we wrestle the body between us:
that dead boy

we both loved.
One entire year of that death

not breathing,
the haze

in his head converted to fist
and shove,

until one beautiful summer evening,
there is a gang

and a car, and…
                                      I cannot say.

But he loved me for awhile,
did not

know me—
and then I was gone and that

was time. This is space.
The wildness

in me
driven away by the scent of women.

The wildness in him growing—
silk chute,

wind and up-rushing Peruvian rock.

Our boon days like a shining
that reignites.

Forgiveness, then and now,
still cut

with animal vengeance.
Animal design:

for him, a frail wicker basket

on a breeze,

a webbing of tree and high tension line.
Officer, he had no choice,

he had to leap,

those others

to certain burning electrical death.
The path

his body took such a pitiful

it had to sear
here and there his tablet skin.

A cuneiform he writes years later.
He gets it now:

                         the dead inhabit us
like bees. They winter over

on what sparse sugars
we provide

until, come spring again, they rouse
and, mad drunk,

with engorged bodies our mortal lives.



Dennis Hinrichsen



those days her face / too / was shield and touch-up
—emollients applied in secret
then / depending on the age / concealer /
a darker shade

—but never malachite / burnt almonds /
lead /
nightingale droppings

—never oxidized copper
always the mask in secret / so when she emerged
she was armored /
—a lure

and repellent
as she tray-ed a cigarette / stirred what was on the stove

—more than likely condensed soup
mixed with potatoes /
bits of Spam
—frozen vegetable for color /

—done / it steamed like orphaned death /
—somebody lost

near a field of bread / two or three slices
of Wonder /
tub of margarine swirled to piglet’s

—she spooned
the glop and smiled / I added salt / smiled back

then night / speckled with stars /
the house like a roasting pan
—we were happy / we were buried alive

we sang the jingles / television hour /
—toothpaste / soap / used cars /
—four children / crossed-legged /

on a dingy rug /
Mother’s face high up / in a shadowed corner /
because father was gone /
fanged with Nair

—our bodies
nearly ash in the flickering / but our eyes ablaze




DENNIS HINRICHSEN's most recent book is Skin Music, winner of the 2014 Michael Waters Poetry Prize. Previous books have been awarded the Akron, FIELD and Tampa Poetry Prizes. New poems of his can be found in Four Way Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Midwestern Gothic and Third Coast. He lives in Lansing, Michigan where he is currently serving as the area’s first Poet Laureate.



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