Surrender of Breda

Diego Velázquez

An aristocratic Dane, draped in tweed, blonde hair whisked to side, clunked a bottle of

     whiskey down on the desk, waved his hand easily into the smoky air as if shooing

     a fly: "This is so vulgar. It really is," meaning the Brahms Festival Overture, and

     the light for one small moment over the library glinted into the window.


"The ocean will never cease to give us pleasure, Doctor." She posed on wet rocks against

     a distant storm; he stood beside a yawl overturned beneath the seawall and

     complained: "My friends, they either disappoint me or compel me to jealousy."


The way he discussed the more decadent Roman Emperors, one suspected that he wished

     historical circumstances had permitted him to speak of himself in such terms.


A letter arrived from the coast: "I just returned from a stroll. Here are some thoughts.

     This time of year the gulls feed on the juniper trees. They cannot perch on the

     branches because the branches cannot support their weight, so they slowly flap

     their wings to keep in place to eat the berries. It is beautiful, this swaying."


And he asked: "What rivers, what air, are my men to cross?" The enemy replied: "If you

     can give me seven laps across the Bosphorus, you may drown at your discretion.

     That was our deal."


Typed at a portable desk on the Normandy beachhead, beneath clouds of naval gunfire,

     bodies soaked in sand: "The wreckage is vast and startling."

— Ernest Hilbert



About the Author

Ernest Hilbert is the editor of the Contemporary Poetry Review, and his poems have appeared in The New Republic, The American Scholar, and Fence.




Boston Review Newsletter