Hillary Keel


About Wittgenstein

Welches sind die einfachen “But what are the simple constituent parts of reality,” she wondered die einfachen Bestandteile and she spelled out the words onto paper, photocopied a pile and folded each piece into addressed envelopes, placing them in stacks on her desk to be brought to the post office.   Und die einfachen Bestandteile eines Sessels? “What are the constituent parts of a chair?” she grumbled, “The bits of wood of which it is made? Oder die Moleküle, oder die Atome? Or the molecules? the atoms?” and typed the letters m-o-l-e-c-u-l-e-s and a-t-o-m-s into her mobile phone, sending out first a mass of text messages, then emails to everyone in her address books, accidentally sending it to those she had meant to delete from her lists. Einfach heißt: nicht zusammengesetzt. There was so much to erase or rather forget, leave behind and just get on with things or to the next step. To at least get to the next step. Und da kommt es darauf an. And the next step was this: to define the word ‘simple’. “Simple means: not composite,” she copied in blue ink in her notebook, leaning on her bedside table, dripping ink blots on the page. She thought, simple means basic, means having no other parts, means pure and unadulterated. She had an obsession, no, a need for simplicity and remembered her 7th grade drawings of atoms with protons and neutrons in their nuclei and the sea of electrons surrounding them.

She remembered how at the age of five she’d go grocery shopping with her mother and examined the packages of Land O’Lakes butter at the supermarket. These had a picture of an Indian squaw, who held the exact same package of butter also with the same picture of the Indian squaw. She remembered how the pictures went further and further inward, getting smaller and smaller, going on into infinity. Even then she wondered where it all ended and began.

Es hat gar keinen Sinn “Besides,” she added in her musings, “there’s no point in talking about a chair being simple.  von den „einfachen Bestandteilen des Sessels schlechtweg“ zu reden.  A chair is not as basic as it seems, all those molecules, which can be divided into atoms, which too have been proven divisible. But can’t a sub-atom, too, be divided?” she cried out, sitting up in bed only to then search for her bathrobe in the dark and walk into her kitchen. There she warmed herself a cup of milk with honey. Drinking this late at night soothed her. And she soon slept with the sweet flavor of milk and honey on her lips, to dream wie trist für möbel nachts von bäumen zu träumen of her own art-deco chairs dreaming of trees.

Note: „wie trist für möbel nachts von bäumen zu träumen“ from the poem, geschändet, by Gerhard Rühm.


I am in Boulder, I am in Vienna,
I am in New York, I am in Norwich,
I am in Constanta, I am in Istanbul,
I am in Minsk, in Prague, in Bratislava,
I am in Philadelphia,
I am in Paris, I’m in Albany,
I’m in Spotsylvania County,
Herkimer County, St. Lawrence County,
Montgomery County, Tuscany, Burgundy,
Bucks County, Sullivan County, Pike
County, Bezirk Zwettl,
Ich bin in Wien, in Wien, in Wien.

I am in a coffee house, I sit in a park,
I lie on Freud’s couch, with my leg’s propped
up on a chair, my knees are bent, I sway
my hips, do an ocho, a plié, I pray.

I think of you, I don’t think, I
have sorrow, I am free, I notice
things, I stop.

I noticed you, I didn’t love you,
I loved you a bit, I loved you
a lot. For a minute. Not a minute,
it was a series of moments, it was
an entire year.

You are an immigrant, from New
York, where I am not from, I was born
in New York. You led me to a door, to
a stairwell, there was no door, it was the
N train, it was a street.

We stood at a bar, didn’t stand, just
hopped there, drinking smoothly,
you spilled your beer as we sat,
you stood up, undecided.

We are both interested in
Modernism at night, we
have nothing in common at night.
You speak of the golden ratio,
you are not mathematic. You are
a mathematic constant.

I study a map of Constanta, studying
a map of Constantinople, I
translate. You are in Queens, you
are in Pennsylvania, at the Black
Sea. You sit in my bath tub, you
stand there. I glance at you, I turn
away, you are so much older, you’re much
much younger, you are not much, you
are just my age. Your friends,
you don’t have any.

You are impossible, possible,
It is possible because we have
the exact same birthday, the
constant, I am so rational.

You say I like this, I don’t
like that, you hate my apartment,
I hate your apartment,
you like my chair, my towel,
my sheets, you say they should
have chopped off all those heads,
you don’t like to be rushed, you
are always rushing, you are
gentle, subtle.

You are an abstract concept, I
like it, no I don’t. You are so
grounded, I am the native
here, you!

You are traumatized by
Communism, I am traumatized
by Capitalism, we have
everything, nothing
in common.

I am sad, it dawned on
me quickly, I am happy.

Birth Day

Oh! You day of days
of the screen door
and grandmother’s sweet sofa

You! Adirondack lake on
my Dalmatian coast

I dreamt of you
your Ferris-wheel-chair
and the Kornati cruise’s
jeweled sea gushed from
my opening, that night
at the hour of my birth

The elevated mid-wife
lit the match and illuminated
my bookshelf swan

of young men in black berets
waving flags on a pebbly beach
their tarot cards laid
on the table

my heart forever rotating
in sugary rose
and fuchsia glacier

of the mid-wife anticipating
my daydreams:
Don’t forget the gold bracelet
that mod jump suit
your grandmother’s ghost stories
she whispered

like Venus
born of the sea
I gave birth
inside myself
to glass shoe liberation
and shivering lust

Homes Until Now (2012)

in chronological order

Note: Home, a fixed location (abode) where I’ve lived for at least one year.

  • Middleville, New York – rectory (birthhome)
  • Canton, New York – rectory, corner of Church and Main Street (early childhood)
  • Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania – rectory, Levering Mill Road (childhood, teenage years)
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia – Mary Washington College campus (college student)
  • Vienna, Austria – 8th district, Albertgasse (Wohngemeinschaft i.e. shared flat with four roommates)
  • Vienna – 6th district, Amerlingstraße (married, birth of first child)
  • Rittendorf bei Traunstein, Lower Austria – Rittendorf 8 (married, birth of second child)
  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Pritchard Avenue (married)
  • Rittendorf bei Traunstein, Lower Austria – Rittendorf 8 (married)
  • Vienna – 12th district, Hetzendorferstraße (married)
  • Vienna – 23rd district, Wittgensteinstraße (married)
  • Vienna – 8th district, Langegasse (separated)
  • Vienna – 23rd district, Wittgensteinstraße (married)
  • Vienna – 6th district, Hofmühlgasse (separated)
  • Vienna – 16th district, Seitenberggasse (divorced)
  • Callicoon, New York – Lower Main Street (divorced)
  • Brooklyn, New York – Sunset Park (single)

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