Haku, Anna Hiltner
oh, but cain, i was never going to be what they
prophesied i would become. this mud hardened
into brick too soon and now columns lie prone
in the sun where we left them because they cracked from
corinthian curl to base before they ever left the quarry.
you hated that the earth loved me, that i planted
an olive grove and it grew. so you hunted and ate
fallow deer and sacred ibis and the people scorned you for it.
cain, i still feel your jawbone against mine
and the weight of the dust you piled over me.
now, nothing grows where you left me.
mother still lays lilac and salvia divinorum
at my grave every spring. but even the false prophets
have already forgotten me. and you,
you built your city where the ground never knew me.
we are already history, cain.
whoever we were, we aren’t anymore
and nobody even remembers
that we were the first—you, the first to kill,
i, the first to die.
you built a city of stone on the plains of shinar
and already it’s been reduced to debris, eroded
and carried by the wind to a desert far away
along with the remains of countless other cities
built by former kings far greater than you ever were.
and still, there you are, on your knees
in the dunes, scooping sand into a sieve, collecting
the bits of glass and bone and column fragments of
what you used to call yours. and i’m here,
where everything beautiful is far away.
don’t you remember when we talked of building a city
together? when we went to the quarry every day to press
mud into bricks? cain, do you remember when we were
children and you lifted me onto your shoulders so i could
reach the spring blossoms on the highest branch?
while you crushed their petals into perfume,
i placed a stray flower behind your ear. you snatched
it from your hair with a hand still stained red with
the blood of a slaughtered oryx and threw it
under your grinding stone with the rest.
About the Author
Jacob Dimpsey · Susquehanna University
Jacob Dimpsey is a recent graduate of Susquehanna University where he earned his BA in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Flock Literary Journal and this poem was previously published in Susquehanna University’s undergraduate literary journal, RiverCraft.
About the Artist
Anna Hiltner · Princeton University
Anna Hiltner ’23 is a sophomore at Princeton University. After taking a gap year in Bolivia, she is studying sociology, Latin American studies, and journalism. Her piece “Haku”, or “let’s go” in Quechua, was taken in Cochabamba, Bolivia on the Día de los Peatones. The Día de los Peatones, or “day of the pedestrians” is a national holiday when no cars are allowed, leaving pedestrians and bicyclists to take over the streets. This piece first appeared in The Nassau Literary Review.