Scott Hightower

The 1812 Campaign Uniform


“Have a look at it tomorrow and see what you think"—Natasha Rostova

You and I play Lucy
to one another's Ricky,

Josephine to one another's Bonaparte,
Cleopatra to one another's Antony,

Enkidu to one another's
Gilgamesh. Watching  

another mini–series
of Tolstoy's War and Peace,

we lament the 1812 baggage train.
The numbers are hard to fathom:

two million pairs of boots
held in reserve at Danzig.

Four hundred fifty thousand conquerors
crossing the Niemen in June; only

twenty thousand frostbitten and famished,
tottering back over, come December.

When the retreat sets out, baggage
will be hauled by eighteen thousand

heavy draft horses; the siege-guns
and pontoons, by ten thousand oxen.

A million greatcoats will have been bought
from the West Riding of Yorkshire,

helping the English woolen trade
in a time of desperate need.

However, Napoleon will have sought
to cut the cost of these coats

by ordering tin buttons
instead of brass ones.

Painful to imagine
all those obedient men

trying to retreat from Moscow
in the November snow;

him not knowing that at low
temperatures tin undergoes

an allotropic transformation
and turns to dust.

 

Neptuno Snug Tower


Here the Lord of the Sea
is atop a serpent

and his spear is majestically
raised and poised to strike.

Originally, cast in zinc
and painted bronze

to curb the overall
expenditure.

Just like Napoleon
and those damned

tin buttons, penny–wise,
others’ eternity foolish.

 

The Chairs


“Us with groanings too deep for words."—Romans 8:26

As clear as a plow’s silvery gash,
an awful lesson in dominion;

were an alert teacher present,
it might have proven a teachable

moment. The elders of the local
church will not see

fit to lend us––its own
fledglings––folding chairs.

When a muscle in the back of my leg
tears, neither the coach, nor the three

others in the relay, realize––nor care––
that pain will hound me my entire

life. Belief clings. Faith lets go.
When I see Robert Mitchum

in Ryan’s Daughter stepping
behind the dressing screen the night

of his wedding, I understand his
uninspired hand, finding its way

up the bedspread to his bride’s back,
abandoned in the char of paradise.

 

West Side Maria


My sister sits                            on my bed

by the window,                       in a blue skirt    

with a fuchsia                          petticoat,

a soft lavender                         top, and cerulean         

shoes. We sing.                        Our differences

are interesting,                         but our likenesses

are more important.               Her sorrow sinks    

into white                                  lace curtains.

Anybody’s love                        is their life.


Scott Hightower is the author of four books of poetry in the US and a bilingual collection published by Devenir, Madrid. Tartessos, his second bilingual collection, is forthcoming from Devenir. His translations from the Spanish have garnered him a Barnstone Translation Prize. Hightower is an adjunct professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.