The sky is warm and heavy before rain.
You throw down anchors. They till lines in soft
Mud, blooming muddy clouds. You sometimes slow,
Sometimes speed, as you pass forest and plain.
In summer, mud smolders; in fall, leaves waft
Onto the deck. The water rolls and glows.
At ports you take on granite, grain, sandstone.
Canals narrow and widen. Locks buoy
And release. The barge rests more deeply
In sluggish brown water. You are alone.
It doesn’t seem to move but does; though free
It holds to its course, pulled toward the sea.
Memories gather, and thoughts become strange.
Between naps, the banks hardly seem to change.
Ernest Hilbert’s debut collection Sixty Sonnets (2009) was described by X.J. Kennedy as “the most arresting sequence we have had since John Berryman checked out of America.” Adam Kirsch wrote of Hilbert’s limited-edition chapbook Aim Your Arrows at the Sun that, “like Robert Lowell, Hilbert is drawn to scenes of carnage, where the true face of humanity seems to reveal itself.”
Hilbert’s poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Boston Review, Verse, New Criterion, American Scholar, and the London Review. He attended Oxford University, where he edited the Oxford Quarterly. He was the poetry editor for Random House’s magazine Bold Type in New York City (1998-2003) and, more recently, of the Contemporary Poetry Review (2005-2010). He hosts the popular blog and video show E-Versed Radio. He is an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, an archaeologist.
I really love this poem, have not yet received permission of the author but have reached out and hope to hear back soon.