We must remember our history, yet Rick Hilles believes it is the telling of it that will shape the memory that lives in future generations of Jews throughout the world. So he strives to tell the memories, beginning with “Nights and Days of 2007: Autumn.” Here he and his friends sit down by a Ouija board, entertaining the spirit of a friend, Jason, from college, then a Polish resistance fighter, Stefan: “Our conversation with Stefan hinges on an idea,/the Old Testament notion – that to kill a man/Is to kill an entire generation. And from the Talmud:/ ‘To save one life is as if one saved the entire world.’” A definitive, searing description of a 9/11 memory follows: “I froze on footage of the Twin Towers falling again./How to explain the next sensation?/…Fine as the motes of old skin tumbling in sunlight,/ The blizzard of the past lit up in rooms like shooting stars/Swirling constellations. All of which we are.” In the midst of a clear connection to the poet Keats, Hilles describes in a poem connected to James Merrill the distinct beauty of the phenomena of touching and kissing, “…Or at the promise of the touch to come/a single note struck in the choir of itself,/when made to sing in us, is madrigal-/a resonance of every clear perception…the resonance instead becomes the love/we can do least without.” Happily, we don’t have to do without the imagery and figurative language of what can, in Rick Hilles’ poetry, never be lost.
A Map of the Lost World
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.
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