In Paradisum

The basement furnace died at 3AM.

The chilly weather of early spring

Arrives by degrees inside the house,

Like seawater leaking into a hull.


We bundle up, treasuring our warmth.

By afternoon, the halls have chilled, as wind

Whines tunelessly and rattles at the glass.

“In Paradisum” from Fauré’s Requiem


Chimes down the crooked stairs like lazy stars

Revolving overhead, pining away

For me, yearning to have me home again,

Out there shining in solar Sargassos


Or ocean swirls of discarded plastic

Gathering in Pacific emptiness.

Fresh dust snows on furniture and floor. I breathe

The busy air, teeming with life, split by shafts


Of sunlight. My voice is dry from all the dust.

It’s taken over everything. It coats

The meniscus of my glass of water.

It’s made of us, our cats and candles—


Rumors of how our lives will be consumed—

Particles of meteor and pollen,

The powder that puddles on the floorboards

As nails are hammered into old walls—


Iridescent archipelagos of pearl

Trailing lagoons of chalk dust in their wakes.

Our self-incineration, which hardly hurts,

Starts lightning racing into nothingness.


I know we’re dust, and stardust too, but more—

Phosphorescent dust in oceans of sunlight,

Like breaths exhaled, diffusions, traces of song,

Engines firing in the voiceless dark.

Ernest Hilbert is the author of Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, Caligulan—selected as winner of the 2017 Poets’ Prize—and Last One Out. His fifth book, Storm Swimmer, was selected by Rowan Ricardo Phillips as the winner of the 2022 Vassar Miller Prize and will appear in 2023. Visit him at