Last Star - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Last Star


Another storm will be here soon. 
Winds drive older snow to a dune
     Against the fence. The weeds
     Wait for spring. Darkness leads
The eye into a half-gone moon.  

Winter creeper and bull thistle,
Though dead for-the-time-being, bristle
     And spike. Bindweed and birch
     Still smother stems and search
For ground to cover on this hill.

Vines looped themselves around barbed wire
All summer. Now the strangling sweetbriar
     Sleeps in muddy banks of snow;
     Once winter’s gone, they’ll grow
Again like an untended fire. 

To live for not-yet created things
Is to live in an air that brings
     Dawn through winter trees,
     Sharp air that makes lungs freeze,
And sense a song though no bird sings:

Can one live in that deadly air
Before the light, without an heir
     Or benefactor,
     Without thought, fact or
Unreal whims, or much of a prayer,

And believe what’s yet to be?
We survive by what we cannot see
     Because it isn’t here
     Yet—hope that answers fear—
As ash in earth sustains a tree.

At the horizon, light will seep.
Most, in warm beds, are still asleep.
     Out here, in cold, the weed
     Aspires to come back, feed
On waste, reach farther, and grow deep.

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. He lives in Philadelphia where he works as a rare book dealer and book reviewer for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. His poem “Mars Ultor” appeared in Best American Poetry 2018. Visit him at

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