“Musica Universalis in Fairbanks” by Sean Hill

Each night this 21st century frontier town settles
Enough for me to hear the thrum and hiss in my ears,
My tinnitus, which I choose to think of as the harmony
Of my firmament—all so far away—like the whush
And hiss from Nana’s gas heater that warmed the winter-
Chilled bedroom in Georgia while she got the skillet sizzling
With country-cured ham in the kitchen. My refrigerator
Occasionally wakes this hour to clear its throat and rumble
On over the sounds in my ears. And some nights I get out
Of bed to go stand under the generosity of stars here—I’ve
Decided that must be the collective noun for all the stars
In one’s gaze as it must also be for any number of scars, the way
We refer to a flock of starlings as a murmuration. I stand
There and use my hand to shade my eyes from the streetlights
To better see the stars. Our new light competes with the old
The way the clamor of our fleets in this age after sails is said
To interfere with the songs of whales. Here I sometimes see
The aurora borealis, silent, which seems impossible like the end
Of the world for what we know of light in the sky—lightning
And, its often not far off companion, thunder—seems to say
Something will always follow. Some say the northern lights
Sizzle—an impossibility, a synesthetic weaving of the senses
Exalting this light, or a lark like the bird which we call
An exaltation when in numbers great or small—more than
A handful, the way a friend used to count lovers when we
Were younger, told me he was on to the second hand,
Love, while a lark, still handled carefully in those days.
I should drive out of town to view these lights against
The sky black as a raven. They often fly in pairs or groups—
A conspiracy, a storytelling, an unkindness of ravens.

Category: Regionals
Sean Hill
About The Author
- Born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill is the author of Dangerous Goods, awarded the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, (Milkweed Editions, 2014) and Blood Ties & Brown Liquor, named one of the Ten Books All Georgians Should Read in 2015 by the Georgia Center for the Book, (UGA Press, 2008). He’s received numerous awards including fellowships from Cave Canem, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stanford University, and, most recently, from the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Poetry, Tin House, and numerous other journals, and in several anthologies including Black Nature and Villanelles. Hill is a consulting editor at Broadsided Press, a monthly broadside publisher. He’s an assistant professor in the creative writing program at UA-Fairbanks. More information, as well as poems, can be found at his website: www.seanhillpoetry.com.