174.1: Matthew Hittinger:: Cross Bucket Candle Knife 174

I used to pore over anatomy books, memorizing the names of muscles and tendons. From the anatomist's perspective, the human body resembles a complex machine: hinges, extensors, flexors. I think of this selection from Matthew Hittinger as a series of anatomies, lexical cross-sections that reveal surprising and profound relationships between body parts, objects, and words. Consider the first lines of "Cross Bucket Handle Knife" (I.i.): "out of the flower grow / shoulders ulna carpal." An apparent confusion of physiology prompts a rethinking of ourselves—the stem with shoulder, metacarpal with twig. Or take a later manifestation of this rethinking, when in II.ii the cladistic association of "condor dinosaur" leads us, eventually, to "piece curio old / desk drawers rail / ties ladder rung." The final line suggests the popular (and inaccurate) image of evolution as a ladder that moves upward until you reach, at the very top, homo sapiens sapiens. But the presence of pieces, curios, and old desk drawers complicates this image, suggesting that we don't simply move upward and onward as a specie. Instead, we inherited these organs and bones like a senior inherits junk during a college career: piecemeal, over time, often without the slightest idea where the curios have come from. Ultimately, Hittinger's poems don't just remind me of poring over anatomy books; they remind me of the strange effects that attend long periods of focus. Look long enough and the object slips, becomes something else. The closed hand might be an armadillo, the arm a walking stick. These anatomies are archeological in Olson's sense of the word, poems to read when deciding how to direct this fabulous machine of ours. Ryan Winet

Cross Bucket Candle Knife


          I.i.

out of the flower grow

shoulders ulna carpal

meta carpal twig radiate

green muscle sheathe

star flower fish bud

for an eye for a mouth



          I.ii.

femur for a knee seat

cap cocoa bean drum

beat bone crease if one

leg one arm 90-degree

a flat board pin rotate

pole does a ten moon

balloon diagram orbit

an invisible planet six

stamen pecans shaped

head upside heart down

family tree branches

forced snail whorl ball

curve thorn turn branch

that is not branch ball

pedestal ghost stand

in the gallery a ready

made scarecrow objects

to the object made ready



          I.iii.

bird of paradise wields

a knife sting ray head

scalpel for the skinned

saint step this way one

hand raised judgment

triumph or illustration

a circulatory system

tuning fork for the Re

of a peeled back torso

plants’ pecan eye says

mandible tongue root

grunt stamen crown

bud drop long turn-

key double hollow off

a sliced open avocado



          I.iv.

here the missing skin

crustacean spine cords

rib cage pine cone coffee

bean bun nape locust

wing veil two leaf

mountain crown

ascend the rosetta

blocks lizard tail

pyramids leech teeth

crater segment closed

pillar compass skull jaw

on the brain three bird

eggs honey combed

stamen electrical cord

scrawled and scarabed

blocks scabbed ancient

abacus names tiered



          I.v.

cactus potato fine

hairs on the flat aloe

slab single barnacled

breast two-fetus chalice

corked with a knight’s

helm elbow rooster

eye octopus growth

tentacles bone heart

onion roll clementine

slice slot and tab

stalk feeler umbilical

cord glow eye or ball



          I.vi.

single leg single arm

pinned pivot pedestal

chat with a grand

daddy leg tourniquet

key proffered balloon

arm candelabra pod

a thumb in open hand

shake blooming star

head fish petals repeat

line and ball line ball

circuit and nub road

thought place thorns

that go nowhere charge

the air flat board heeled

planked flanked peeled



          II.i.

gnome skull glow

wave beard halo

beam streak Martian

moon to a barren

landscape two hands

disembodied cuff

reach but do not

touch flat matter

covers sandwiched

silhouette a tower

and two lights dark

escarpment Horus

crowned fortress



          II.ii.

condor dinosaurs

jungle net in Vs

and Xs beak talon

boas serpentine strike

hook and question

mark one woman’s

shoe white rose toe

snake skinned cross

piece curio box old

desk drawers rail

ties ladder rung



          II.iii.

a plow a pipe two

seated sphinx Easter

island stone face

leonine curl the first

sphinx riddles why

bangled human arms

hold exposed horse

shoe crab its shell

a bowl its stinger

a lance hand grabs

striped shrimp leg

segs stone throne

a condor perches

on the sphinx’s

echo wings folded

like a shell answer

in a whorled tress



          II.iv.

consider the shoe

tower a ladies’ laced

boot bowed curled

hose horn bangled

font a plate of fire

revolver handle ear

bracelet a man’s

hooked hat shelled

skin guard a man’s

loafer knee slipper

hip toe pipe smoke

bellows heel eel

turkey or rooster

or kingfisher curve

marble eye pie tin

thought bubble crown



          III.i.

earth a hard boiled

cup seven magistrates

egg shake hands severed

at the fore gallery float

planked space earth’s

spooned fate baked



          III.ii.

pile five golden eggs

nexus of three balls

and three balls seven

eyes lash out three

eyes marble earth

birthed from Venus’s

fly trap shell pillars

eye recede articulate

points infinite trills