The National Poetry Review

Graham Hillard


It is a story they tell in fragments, as though to risk the whole
would be to step again inside its corridors. Still, I get it
out of them: how they thought to do the smallest of favors,
clean the house of a troubled widow—the addled mother

or luckless aunt of one among them. They tell me that it was
the stench that gave them warning, the bloom of it opening
before they even cracked a door—an acidulated tang that might
have been anything: moldering books, dishes glazed

with long-forgotten suppers, closets of secondhand shoes
worn to ripening, mattresses stacked to ceilings, their innards
eviscerated into rodents’ nests, and all of it preserved
in the airlessness of that temple. What I will never understand,

they tell me, is their exhaustion after two solid days
of hauling the house into the yard, stripping the place
of even the memory of desire before collapsing into their beds
humbled, astonished, and perfectly without need.

GRAHAM HILLARD teaches creative writing at Trevecca Nazarene University and is the editor of The Cumberland River Review. His work has appeared in 32 Poems, The Believer, Image, and numerous other journals, and he is the recent recipient of an individual artist fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission.

Back to Issue