For that is really the theme of Brother Salvage: history lives in us and connects us to the larger world before and around us. It is indeed a powerful idea, but in the hands of a lesser writer it could have become tedious. Rick Hilles is prepared for his theme. These poems move gracefully, evocative without ever seeming ornate, and they tell their stories easily, in quick flashes of image, in metaphor, or even in other texts translated by the author into his own verse. The theme, established by the doctor's record of his own survival, is manifest in poems that include small stories of the poet's own family history, or even in poems that find themselves hidden in earlier works of European literature, that speak in voices other than the poet's. The book concludes, for instance, with a visionary poem in the voice of William Blake's wife.
And that sense of connection to the world through history and through vision gives this book its power. In "Preparing for Flight," one of the book's simpler poems, the poet describes a scene in an airport waiting area where a loud businessman dominates the conversations. Hilles thinks mostly of his beloved and his return to her, and he writes under all these influences:
| Maybe I'll fax this to you, maybe I won't |
but sure as starlight and this man's fierce business sense,
the dream-life of everything we love and lay our hands upon,
we're on the edge of something luminous. I know we are.