Two Poems by Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert

Liberty Leading the People

It is not palaces that burn, so much

As raw materials within, draperies,

Furniture, rugs, books, clothes, gilded clocks,

Sometimes, a plump viscount or once

Quick footman; but the palace itself, like

Castles and temples before it, remains

A charred chassis, to be weighed once again

With laughter and candles, food, computers,

And sports cars when times finally cool down.

“Ice Dwellers Watching the Invaders”

oil painting, William Bradford, ca. 1870s

The ship is locked beneath frozen mountains.

It crunches by inches against white floes,

Its masts are bare cold poles of long-stripped tents,

Its silhouette a stalagmite, its rows

Of furled sails, half-mast, sagging like bellies

Over the black pedestal of the hull.

Five seals splash and plunge near the icy shore.

Tubes of blood and blubber, they oar

The arctic waters, float in the ship’s reflection

As it leans and groans on the frozen

Depths. In its dark hold are harpoons, clubs, a gun.

Snow that took the color of the late sun

Just as easily accepts its absence.

Nothing seems to happen. A polar bear

Is unconcerned with the peculiar presence.

No thing would dare challenge

The terrible essence of his deadly kingdom.

What could kill more easily? And what for?

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