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HOUSE-MARKS / Conrad Bilberry "House-marks were, at first, private signs of peasant proprietors, and their use was originally confined to their holdings, all moveable property which was distinguished by the holdings-mark. The holdings-mark was displayed: By being punched into floated timber, which could thus be sorted out at the end of its run. By being snipped into the ears of domestic animals and the feet of web-footed animals. By being clipped out of the coats of horses. By being painted on sacks, and on the fleeces of sheep. By being cut into the upper bills of swans. By being ploughed into the surface of the fields. By being carved on trees and on sticks used for drawing lots. By being embroidered on rugs and cloths. By being punched or branded into the iron or wooden parts of agricultural implements, respectively, and by being branded into the hides of domestic animals and the horns of cattle. At a later date these house-marks came to be used as personal signs, and often underwent modifications at the hands of different members of the family. Later still they were used as trade-marks and the marks of craftsmen and artists. The suggestion that they owe their origin to the Runes is only to be accepted in rare cases." —Rudolf Koch, The Book of Signs 20 ¦ The Missouri Review Zty Crow'*foot, ormita)'ßfoot You are walking toward me, crow, putting each foot out, stealthy, in the river mud. I have seen you coming. You point me with your bill, your sidelong eye, your dark feather. My only chance is to make myself an absence, as when a name you know as well as your own is suddenly gone. You will open your beak to caw me down, but I will be that empty place in your throat. You will move through me, crow, leaving behind your witched mark, bony flowers along the shadow of a spine. Conrad Hilberry The Missouri Review -21 £be manure heap If you are looking for breasts like two pink sheep nibbling their way up the hillside, you have come to the wrong place. This is no haystack or feather bed. Here, the heat rises straight from the ground, and the scent is not imported. My mark is a plain one, broad as my skirt, but you will remember it. You are talking to a woman who will be here tomorrow, tough as grass, and when you shake the reins and drive out the gate, the spreader will be heaped with a rich crop. 22 ¦ The Missouri Review Conrad Hilberry 3notI)cr anchor Blind in the green-black water, I have fallen fathoms down, tossed from the dry dinghy, the cupped hand. For me, the sea's surface is a beam overhead, a pen stroke black as my falling. What direction can there be but down? Past the hooks of fishermen, sucked by the dark, I fall till I come to . . . what? The silt of other souls, miles of sea dust with nowhere a foothold—too deep for your fishing, Christ, here at the end of a cast-off rope. Conrad Hilberry The Missouri Review · 23 CI)* wolf« tODÍÍ) People see my stance, slightly askew, hurried. They notice the angles. They imagine a fierceness in me or disdain. But that is not it. It is the Mistake that twists me off center. Sometimes, I think I should apologize, but that would seem to exaggerate it, after all this time. It would remind them, when perhaps they have almost forgotten. Instead, I look aside, look down. It is curious that they should think me fierce. I am a deer, blinking and turning, followed by the wolf's tooth. 24 ¦ The Missouri Review Conrad Hilberry Tí)* òoublc fiuti or òoublcfyooh Separate, we are a pair of sevens standing in the rain. But crossed by a single purpose, we brand our house with angles. Fierce sticks, we flail the chaff away, then flail on until the grain itself is broken and blown. We face opposite directions, sharpening our hooks. Then, we slash, slash away limbs, faces, genitals, slash until we are one figure, relentless and pure. Double flail...


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