For Hillary

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Burrill
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Burrill

by Mia You


The first day of graduate school, I pushed my way into Lyn Hejinian’s poetry workshop and to make up for my trespass I raised my hand immediately when the question was asked, who would present on your manuscript, scheduled to be our very first workshop. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what to do, had never done such a thing before (to present a classmate’s work, to present on someone’s work as they sat just a few chairs away from me), I was so eager to impress, eager not to trespass. You sat in the middle of the classroom, knowing everyone, so much belonging. It’s not just that you belonged to all this, but that this belonged to you.

Your manuscript held the title the sensible horizon. I didn’t know what that meant, so in my way I created a file compiling various internet definitions:



The plane intersecting an observer’s position perpendicular to the line formed by the observer’s nadir and zenith. Where the Earth and Sky appear to meet.

1. a. The boundary-line of that part of the earth’s surface visible from a given point of view; the line at which the earth and sky appear to meet. In strict use, the circle bounding that part of the earth’s surface which would be visible if no irregularities or obstructions were present … being the circle of contact with the earth’s surface of a cone whose vertex is at the observer’s eye. On the open sea or a great plain these coincide.

b. transf. The part of the earth’s surface bounded by this line; the region visible from any point. Obs.

c. The bounding limits, the compass. Obs.

2. a. A boundary, the frontier or dividing line between two regions of being.


It goes on. I went on, probably nothing I said made any sense. You smiled at everything, but with that twinkle in your eye that said you see through everything. Everything you said was precise, everything you wrote was motivated. It is impossible that your poetry then did not include your pain, but I didn’t see it there and didn’t know to look. What was seen instead was landscape, abstraction, perspective, longing. A “you” and “I” that intersected to form a new sensible horizon, that saw surfaces shifting and stars colliding, but still we could trust our feet were firm on common ground.

I found out you were gone just before boarding a flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. For a moment, as the plane rose, I let myself imagine your own ascent and then, imagining even more clearly what you would say to this, that twinkle of your eye still there, I felt ashamed and stopped. Through the window, the land that gave you your name came into view, and I thought about how, so many times, I had wanted to find a place called gravendyk and send you a picture, but the whole land would be filled with such places, it is the very thing that composes it, and when I looked at the earth again I saw all those straight lines, the perfect geometric articulations, the even rotation of yellow and green, and it looked like nothing else than what it was.