Geoffrey Hill is dead, and still, now, as I read his words,
his voice keeps crossing over. And a woman at a nearby
table says to her companion, I am so many people these days—
mother, child, whore—I feel exhausted. And as she laughs,
her unlit cigarette keeps making little circles, and the other
woman listens. I want to say, I know the feeling, when I know
I cannot. I want to break through unspoken boundaries.
I cannot write of Nobody, says Hill. No one to narrate this.
But then his writing, with all its ferocity and plumage, turns
from an image of the self as a peacock to praise the bird’s
bare corrosive scream. I cannot speak for no one. I try.
Some laughter belies the cutlery inside it. But what I see
in the author’s portrait is his namesake, a rock, withholding
and thereby held. What I hear is a woman and her broken
English, the many selves lonely for the one who talks of them.
Her companion says, yes. The unlit cigarette rises and falls.
And as I bow my head, I read a little deeper. Names live alone
their separate lives, says Hill. Yes, I say. And softer still, yes, yes.