First Birthday

First Birthday

For Ryan

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. –Edward Everett Hale


Today you are one
no longer a fraction: a part measured
in days, weeks, or months.

At one it can be easy for people
to forget that you are a miracle. In
your first days, first breaths and blinks,
everyone soaks in your newness and
takes the time to admire the craft of
your tiny, God-kissed fingernails.

Yet the daily routine of bottles and baths,
dishes, laundry, and dinners
allows for forgetting. But you, dear little one,
should think not only of the miracle of your arrival,
but the person you have become–
all on your own.

You were not taught you to roll.
You were not taught you to smile.
You were not taught to creep, crawl, and stand.
You observed, and you accomplished.
And this determination has made you
your own person.

You are not likely to have many
memories of one–most will be constructed
for you by the retelling of little fictions
that blossom from seeds of truth.

But you are at the beginning
of so many things: one,
two, three–on your mark, get set, go!
Go with your ten toes for balance,
go with your five fingers for grasping,
go with your two hands for holding (which
Mommy will want to do, long after
you are ready to run free),

and go with your heart:
your one heart–
and love.

©2013 M. Hilbert


A Prayer for Henry

This poem with written, with love, in anticipation of the arrival of a dear friend’s baby. He’s here now! Welcome to the world, little Henry. -MEK


A Prayer for Henry

Little one, right now it’s just milk and Mama
but there is so much more to come:

     Riding down a steep hill on your bike, under
     the July sun, going so fast that the wind
     turns the sweat on your neck to salt

     Pressing blackberries, one by one, to the
     roof of your mouth until they burst—
     making your tongue sweet amethyst

     Reading each word of a story until you lose
     yourself in the letters and you can no longer
     tell where the characters stop and you begin

     Feeling the carbonation of laughter
     fill your belly before letting out
     that exhale of bubbling joy

     Pausing for the sherbet sunset rippling
     through waves of clouds that will soon
     give way to the frosty crescent moon

     Being so still that you not only
     hear your creator, feel your creator,
     but also breathe with your creator

Right now it’s just milk and Mama, Henry,
but soon there will be ice cream—

and there are so many flavors




©2012 M. Hilbert

**published in Poetry East

**The form is called a pantoum.


Our Parents Tuck Us in Each Night

     Telling us the stories of saints:
     a bedtime ritual before prayers.
     But the images terrify me,
     and I crawl into bed with my sister, linking pinkies.

     A bedtime ritual before prayers:
     after my parents leave the room I count to ten
     and I crawl into bed with my sister, linking pinkies,
     thinking of Padre Pio’s bleeding palms.

     After my parents leave the room I count to ten,
     my eyes pressed closed, trying to avoid
     thinking of Padre Pio’s bleeding palms,
     Salome holding John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

     My eyes pressed closed, trying to avoid
     holding my sister’s hand too tightly:
     Salome holding John the Baptist’s head on a platter,
     bees flying into and out of Rita’s mouth.

     Holding my sister’s hand too tightly,
     I search for peace…
     bees flying into and out of Rita’s mouth—
     I pray, “Please, God, let them stop.”

     I search for peace,
     But the images terrify me.
     I pray, “Please, God, let them stop
     telling us the stories of saints.”




© 2012 M. Hilbert

Unimportant Finds

Unimportant Finds

   Digging through photographs
   being stored in shoe boxes
   under the basement stairs,
   I find an envelope of negatives
   separate from the coordinating prints.

   Taking them up to the landing,
   I hold the strips up to the light
   and find the transparent umber
   and sienna images of myself from
   a day I do not remember—with
   friends in a car (Who is that in the middle?),
   then on a beach (Which beach? Where?)—

   these backward images
   like bits of leaf lodged and preserved
   in ancient tree resin that hardened into
   amber and washed up on the shores of
   the Baltic to be found in the cool,
   midmorning, autumn sun by a young
   Lithuanian woman in a straw hat
   who tucks it into her front pocket
   alongside a spare button.


© 2011 M. Hilbert



Dog pacing
and knees aching
signaled that a storm
was coming.
Now with drifts that
touch the tip of
the hair fringing
out the bottom of my
knit cap I am far
from bewildered
by the streets erased
by last night’s snow.

And I think about my Greats—
who generations ago
had learned only to
ask “Why?” and not yet “How?”—
who must have thought that
when the sky tumbled down,
pulling the constellations
out of the night and onto
their thatched roofs
that the world was
coming to an end,
that unlike Noah,
there was no ark to build
to sustain them until
this disaster subsided.
While huddled near a
fire, and perhaps a kettle,
they must have considered
sins great enough to warrant
such wrath from God,
the breaking of a covenant:
feigning illness to avoid the long, frigid walk to church,
stealing wood from neighbor’s land,
crossing legs, not fulfilling the duty of wife to husband.

As we finish shoveling,
my husband, daughter,
dog, and I walk
two by two
into the house.


© 2011 M. Hilbert

Blood Bank

Blood Bank

Walking out of the blood bank,
bandage pulling on my arm hair,
I think of my blood, cooling from
its balmy ninety eight degrees
as it settles in a plastic bag.

It could go anywhere from here:
a twelve year old Hispanic boy (car wreck)
a brunette, former model (child birth)
a haggard, grimy farmer (hand cut off)

For the rest of the receiver’s life
a bit of me goes with,
but not just the platelets—
a sudden hankering for raw cookie dough,
checking out a book of poetry from the library,
a penchant for classical guitar.

But, of course, there is also
the possibility for tragedy:
an overweight father of four
lays on a surgical table.
My blood reaches his brain
just before his heart flat lines—
and the last image he sees is
an unfamiliar home where
a chocolate lab is pawing to go out
onto the sunny back porch.


© 2011 M. Hilbert

On My Twenty-Eighth Birthday

Standing in the shower,
not yet ready for morning coffee,
I turn the temperature up
until the water beats my back
a spotty magenta
and a thick fog rises,
coats mirror and lungs.
Unable to take full breaths
of weighted air,
my heart begins
to pound me dizzy
—as I must have been
in those first moments,
pushed inverted
through hips
into loud hands:
a disoriented little body
punching, gasping,
unable to control
the in-and-out of dry air
that turned my
skin from blue to pink
a shade lighter than
my scalded back is now.



© 2011 M. Hilbert