"We," "Visitor Bearing Message," and "As for the Worm"


are a message in a bottle.
A handprint smeared in ochre.
Or blood on asphalt.
Hope of some god
who forgot his name.
Map to a hidden treasure.
Can you believe it?
We are a wolverine, a snake
a wolf, a hummingbird,
a dead whale, and possibly ambergris.
If we are a song you almost remember,
it might be better to forget.
The dictionary says you can’t spell us.
Grammar’s always a problem. Numbers
too: how many lives for a bale of cotton?
We have no wings.
Claw on a galactic lion.
Sand’s wet slide back into before.
We like to swallow yesterday.
Time is a transitive verb.
Or a railroad. Speed bullet?
We might be rain in another country.
If we can do it.



Visitor Bearing Message

Today the wind came
      to my door.
He was wearing a
            hat, and in
        his left hand he
       carried a hammer.
“Shoo,” he said. 
“Whirlance.  Fur.”
I opened a sky-hole
    in the rafters to
       see his hair.
He beat on the roof
     with his hammer.
His hat fell off.
His hair splashed
     the clouds with
         mountain and
A small device-
    a tuning fork or violin
        made of crows -
floated just above his elbow.
His hat announced
          it.  His hair
        will be
            a breeze-fest!
The small brown wood mice
            will scurry up
                  the trees



As for the Worm

As for the worm, it inches. The orangutan on the other hand scratches, thinking of a joke involving a burlap bag, the people watching him, and his own head. But not only the snake slithers. The press conference will be at 10:00 a.m. Words fill the air like crows looking for the nearest edible morsel or gnats seeking out the liquid refreshment of a deer’s eyes. I mean it’s words. Is that nature? We’re better than the other animals at it. Wolf! Wolf! the story goes and then stockpiled guns in the garage. In the slam pong blare of question and answer, you can hear a low dangerous buzz, electric as the crackle of insects frying against a light bulb. Next is a silence in which water boils. It is a moment of urgency for the water, as the poet says. Love too may be like that. War? Nothing stops, only changes shape, velocity, or trajectory. From point to cluster, from liquid to ice, from possible to rifle. From perhaps to hope. These possibles fly everywhere, of all stripes and fancies. The long march toward the mountains you are dreaming of or the place you never wanted to go has already begun.



Tobey Hiller

Tobey Hiller is the author of six books: a novel, four collections of poetry, and, most recently, a book of short stories, Flight Advice: a fabulary, just out from Unlikely Books. Her poetry and flash can be found in a variety of magazines and journals, online and off. She thinks the rivers are telling us something. Tobey recommends Doctors without Borders.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 22:00