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 www.ernesthilbert.com.