The Manchester Review
Travis Mossotti
Hills -- after Apollinaire
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When I stared too long into these Missouri hills,
they curled like slings around broken limbs,
and out came creepers edging the treeline, men with maps,
ancestral black earth, raw childless wind, water.
None of these things were mine. I gave them back

to a minister named Perry, so he might deliver them
from his Sunday pulpit, so he might
find within his open Bible an angel’s wing
that holds a place, that holds a passage
from this earth to the next, and he would keep it

for himself. That minister was and will forever
be a fool. He never did represent me
or my country, which I gave back
and found waiting under the same
bridge I crept out from. When I was young,

our cherry tree squirmed its roots towards
China and brought the truly exotic
women within reach. Summer. Noon. I would
fall asleep under the canopy and dream of them.
I imagined their lips were already songs.

Women like that lit fires in the belly
of my father’s Buick when it wouldn’t
turn over. I watched him lug it from the garage,
beat the hood with a sledge and call it a lousy
American tramp. My father spelled disasters.

You could find him everywhere.
He was like these hills. He towered over
engines that misfired or didn’t fire at all.
He knew the mechanics of anger
and frustration because his life

was complete and adorned with roadways
that led him to upper management.
I found it nonsensical, chose instead to let
a few musicians show me the true meaning
of a fifth of bourbon and a barstool

too far from any rocky coast to conjure
an ocean, this river had to suffice.
Stack-O-Lee shot Billy Lyons next to it.
Down near Morgan Street. He didn’t shoot him
over a Stetson or cards. It was politics.