“Basal Cells” & “Fake It Til You Make It”

Basal Cells

–Ted Blankenship (1942-2012)

What are these visitors
the doctors call benign?
They fall away beneath
my questioning nail, coming
to sight like winter shells
of acorns in the sloping yard.

We’ve cut four trees, all oaks,
and seven Christmas cedars set
too close to the foundation. Oaks
were big and overhanging, two
rotting at the core. I’ve planted
hibiscus and annuals in the three-

foot bowl of one stump whose rot
startled our tree-guy when the whole
cross-section came to light. No dead
limbs among its leafy effusions, no
symptoms of soldiering-on in the dark
against increasing odds. Invisible

looming void. The stump of the tree
that dropped a twenty-foot limb
and grazed my car now tethers my dogs
when I’m home puttering among
my blessings. A few sunflower plants
limp along in the third stump cavity.

The fourth recluses beneath the billowing
mock orange, gathering underskirt everything
this side of Ted and Clyde’s stone wall.
Their tulips, gladiolus, antique urns, irises,
witty pruning among the apple trees, grasses
now gone lightless losing Ted in March.

Not cancer. But now slivering grains of all
our growth stand stark again as creeper vines,
dead-head flowers, chewing wasps, invasive
mosses, ice-fractures shouldering new ways
in stone, the whole voracious underworld
stealthily rebuilds from scratch.


Fake It Till You Make It

–Be yourself or anyone else. What happens here stays here.—TV ad for Las Vegas (2015)
–No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
—The Scarlet Letter (1850)

He was a man of great confusion
whose daily piecemeal clarities
parsed out particles of more
confusion. For him light skittered,

a storm of shards flung glittering
across the stage, no spot-light marks
for unity. Beauty was his goal, bleak
unfiguring of ugliness, machinations

of hope, bracketing disillusion while
he assumed the bright moon did shield
the broad disaster, fool’s-glare across
the long horizon of his dark planet,

even as time and again, day and night,
crinkling seascapes frittered the wind-sand light.


ROBERT W. HILL took his degrees at the University of North Carolina and the University of Illinois. He taught at Clemson University for eighteen years, retiring after twenty-two years from Kennesaw State University as Professor Emeritus in 2007. In 2010, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Writers Association.

 Co-author of James Dickey (1983), with Richard J. Calhoun, he has published numerous articles, interviews, and reviews (Birmingham Poetry Review,Five Points, Hopkins Quarterly, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Southern Quarterly, South Atlantic Review), and his poems have appeared in such places as Arlington Quarterly, Ascent, Birmingham Poetry Review, Cell Poems, Cold Mountain Review, Five Points, Grand Central Review (Fall 2015), Minnesota Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Old Red Kimono, Poem, Shenandoah, Six Sentences, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Review, Red Clay Reader, and 32 Poems.