(After Mustafa Zvizdic)
by H. L. Hix

I didn’t mean to fall away.
I own no whit of defiance.
I am, though, afraid of everything.
Others have a lucky amulet
attached to their key chain, or,
on a necklace they wear every day,
a ring from a lover. I have my fear.
I carry it in my left front pocket,
always, because (of course)
I am afraid to leave it behind.
I couldn’t carry it with me like this
without naming it, so I call it Kasimir,
because it resembles a Russian nobleman
out of Chekhov, with serfs who scythe
his sazhens and sazhens of wheat,
but for whom each year it proves
harder and harder to find credit,
and whose estate falls each year
further, more utterly, into disrepair.
It’s me in Benton’s “Persephone,”
keeping a tree between myself
and the most exquisite human body
I will be near ever, making sure
she doesn’t know I am there,
afraid to speak, afraid to ask her name.
And I talk to myself, out loud,
when no one is near (and no one ever is).
How could they not distrust you,
you who cannot look yourself in the eye?
Even in first grade your fear was visible,
and gave away to Miss Cassandra
the failures she rightly foretold.

So I slip through the party,
shuffling sideways, with my arms
above my head to avoid bumping
an elbow that would slosh someone’s drink,
hoping to get out the door
without Whoever Notices noticing.

(“First Confession from Harvey of the Pious and Patriotic Hix Family” was originally published in The Offending Adam, and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

H. L. Hix’s most recent book is a “selected poems” entitled First Fire, Then Birds: Obsessionals 1985-2010. Others of his recent poetry collections include Incident Light, Legible Heavens, and Chromatic (a finalist for the National Book Award). His books of criticism and theory include As Easy As Lying, Spirits Hovering Over the Ashes: Legacies of Postmodern Theory, and Morte d’Author: An Autopsy. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas, and currently teaches in the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Wyoming. More information is available at his website:

Editor’s Note: What a heartbreaking work of human genius. How brutally honest Hix is–not only with himself–but with his readers. Keenly observant of both his own inner workings and of the world around him, the narrator notes that while some carry a trinket for luck or love, he carries his fear–keeping it with him always because (of course) he is afraid to leave it behind. The mindset driving this piece is almost palpable. I know and love people who approach life in this way, and I have had my own moments of awkwardly trying to escape a room, “hoping to get out the door without Whoever Notices noticing.” Relatable in its content, today’s poem is also embellished with moments of brilliant and beautiful language and imagery. My personal favorites: “a tree between myself / and the most exquisite human body / I will be near ever, making sure / she doesn’t know I am there, / afraid to speak, afraid to ask her name,” and “I talk to myself, out loud, / when no one is near (and no one ever is).”

Want to read more by and about H. L. Hix?
Like Starlings
Poetry Foundation
Connotation Press

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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  1. Deborah says:

    “without Whoever Notices noticing.” How I loathe that person, that non-existent person, who sits in judgment of our every move. Right on our shoulder. And no matter how invisible you try to make your actions or movements, no matter how far below the surface you try to hold yourself, they always notice. Reflectively resonant piece, Sivan. Thanks for finding and sharing.

    • Sivan says:

      I hoped/thought you would love/resonate with this piece Deborah. It was a lucky find on my part. H.L. Hix is really an amazing poet. And this poem is so thought-provoking.

  2. lezliemayers says:

    Do you think it would be easier to beat our fears if we named them?

    • Sivan says:

      If it were that easy I think people would be more likely to own up to their fears. I think awareness/naming helps us mitigate and manage them, perhaps, but fears stem from some place of irrationality we can’t really understand well enough to overcome through logical processes. (See how I sound like I know what I’m talking about?!) 😉

  3. Maya Elashi says:

    Great piece! My problem – as you’ve often told me – is that I DO speak my inner dialogue aloud (even when people are near), for the whole funkin’ world to here!

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