Walking the Dunes

By Brenda Hillman b. 1951 Brenda Hillman
In movies when the hero is about to die,   
He scatters a few phrases in a place like this,   
Hoping the words will come up again
Immortal, or the grasses will reach out for him   
As now they do for us.

Someone has planted a row of little trees   
To stop the wind. Instead they’ve learned   
To bend like the elect
In one direction only; they know
The sea will shatter them.

Isn’t it always like this?
Something uncontrollable becomes the hero,   
Taking off its dress, the ice plants
Sunburn from the center out
So we can see that their deaths

Of splendid rust and yellow are not ours,
We are allowed again the glare
Of the sand, the druid hills,
The grasses brushing the legs, though
Just to have felt it once would have been enough.

Brenda Hillman, “Walking the Dunes” from The White Dress. Copyright © 1985 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Poetry (May 1977).


This poem originally appeared in the May 1977 issue of Poetry magazine

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May 1977
 Brenda  Hillman


One of contemporary poetry’s most eclectic and formally innovative writers, Brenda Hillman is known for poems that draw on elements of found texts and document, personal meditation, observation, and literary theory. Often described as “sensuous” and “luminescent,” Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice, while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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