Jesse Hilson

Autobiographical Mystery

The Dream Adulterers

The cuckold outside the thought bubble

Can’t see in, can’t watch them go to dine

At the restaurant in the candle-whipped dark.

To get there the couple drives in reverse

Down a narrow alley, careless of impeding

Anyone needing to go forward.

Sleep is when the encoding happens.

Her dream image: a mirage so thorough

In scope it resembles in every way a legit memory.

Her concrete portrait always flees in tiny runnels

But the mirage is patient, solid for him to see

After a decade, two images compared.

He gets another chance, the man allowed to walk

The night-path twice, the first time 

With broken monocle, the second time: repaired.

Tiny Camera

The foyer where he held the lavender bike she tried to balance on. 

Or that Disney whirligig where he spun with her. 

The sweltering crib in London which she begged to be let out of. 

Or the close-up of the jack o’ lantern with note attached telling bad people not to steal it.

The woman in the green sweater over the baby below the Christmas tree.

The cracks in the wall next to the headboard. 

The lubricant that may have rebuked the husband. 

The hammock next to the house leaving diamond-shaped hatchwork on her bottom.

The mosquito’s slow emergence from its underwater egg. 

The lullaby of wasps in the nest as the tiny camera panned. 

The tufted orb of a dandelion flexing in the sun. 

The counterfeit rain the photographer spilled from his watering can.

Autobiographical Mystery

Observe, among the German sunbathers,

A family resemblance,

How grossmütter donates

Slender skeletons to all

The females downstream.

Looking at their faces,

Her kite-shaped jawline

Is repeated as if it were die-cut 

into paper in a printer’s shop.

I’m hoping my daughter or granddaughter

Can organize my life, which I can’t

Organize while I live it. 

I’m talking about all the papers,

Which threaten like a river to sweep her away.

The story of my life,

If I don’t write it, will fall to her.

She’s meant to include herself

In the empty spots I started to illustrate

But left blank.

Meanwhile there is a type of bookworm,

Which only feeds on mystery novels,

Eating from the last page backward,

Solution first, chapter one last.

It mistakes my autobiography for its next dinner.

So with those family members who inherit my mystery,

I put all descriptions of their faces at the beginning.

On Telling My 7-year-old Daughter What a Child Abductor Is

I think what hurts

is being pulled

into a child’s perceptive mode

while knowledge of the evil stays in place,

the knowledge every grown-up gets a portion of.

Once all atrocities

I’ve ever heard

have been recorded here,

the worst of all is being given

children’s ears to hear them all afresh.

You can’t perceive the world

a second time once you have known it once.

And yet how can you prevent yourself

from giving off reflections of it endlessly?

Jesse Hilson is a freelance newspaper reporter living in the Catskills in New York State. His writing has appeared in AZURE, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, Expat Press, Misery Tourism, ZiN Daily, Orchid’s Lantern, Roi Faineant, and elsewhere. His novel Blood Trip will be published in April 2022 by Close to the Bone (UK) and his poetry chapbook Handcuffing the Venus De Milo will be published in November 2022 by Bullshit Lit. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @platelet60 and he writes a substack newsletter at His email is


Interview with Jesse Hilson

Why do you write poetry? 

I write poetry because it is a way to, in a relative sense, cut to the heart of what you are trying to say quickly. And yet it is known as an obscure art. When I write poems I am trying to aim for a lucidity and a spirit of authority that is not quite possible in prose perhaps. And yet much poetry I write has a prose-y quality to it. I’m afraid whatever answer I give contains some self-contradiction.

What is this collection about?

This collection of four poems is about my relationships as a failed family man. Many of them were written following a divorce I went through which actually triggered a great deal of writing and reflection, not just on marriage but also what I meant to my daughter who is all I have left of that relationship.

Were these poems always meant to be placed together in a collection? 

I didn’t write the poems all together so I wasn’t quite thinking of collecting them into a group as such. I haven’t thought enough about collecting this wave of “family man” poems into a collection yet but this is a good first step, a good concentration.

Who are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Ezra Pound, the poems he wrote before the Cantos as I’m not ready for those yet. I am also reading a lot of books about Islamic theology and related subjects for a novel I’m working on. Specifically the debates that took place over the anthropomorphic nature of God, a major issue for Islamic thinkers.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager but only really seriously doing it, in the sense of concentrating and trying to finish projects, since around 2008. And the projects aren’t finished yet. I have finished a few novels.

Who is your favorite poet/writer?

My favorite poet/writer is a tough question. It’s also not tough at all, because I’ll just say I love the poetry of William Shakespeare, and I don’t even necessarily mean the poems he wrote but the poetic dialogue of his plays, the way various characters expressed thought in beautiful verse. I also love Lord Byron and John Keats. But Shakespeare is the best.