On the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of
John Lennon’s Murder

On the step behind the Holiday Inn,
Two Russians roamed up, bummed a cigarette,
While a third snuck up, struck me from behind.
I sprawled to asphalt. Then the boot came in.
I swung through the red, but it’s a good bet
I didn’t land one. The blackout was kind.
I woke knotted in blood-ruined sheets, startled:
Smashed, stamped and splintered to a numbed dazzle,
I spat back wads into the fuzzy sink.
One look in the mirror, my brain curdled.
I propped in the shower stall. Steam sizzled.
My hair loosed a sick swirl of sour pink.
They made off, grinning, with all I had: two
Dollars, five cigarettes, and my Zippo.


In Ernest Hilbert’s poetry there is a striking juxtaposition of formality and common language. Humorous, plain-spoken lines are followed by sharp and lilting images, reminiscent of Frost, which turn again to the raw confessional mode that recalls Lowell at his best. The effect is dazzling and poignant. Hilbert may be the presiding genius of contemporary formalism.


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