Jane Hirshfield

POETRY: To Hear The Falling World by Jane Hirshfield

September 28, 2018

Only if I move my arm a certain way, it comes back. Or the way the light bends in the trees this time of year, so a scrap of sorrow, like a bird, lights on the heart. I carry this in my body, seed in an unswept corner, husk-encowled and seeming safe. But they guard me, these small pains, from growing sure of myself and perhaps [...]

POETRY: Mosquito by Jane Hirshfield

September 21, 2018

I say I & a small mosquito drinks from my tongue but many say we and hear I say you or he and hear I what can we do with this problem a bowl held in both hands cannot be filled by its holder x, says the blue whale x, say the krill solve for y, says the ocean, then multiply by existence the feet of an ant make their own sound on the earth ice is astonished by water a person misreads delirium as delphinium and falls into a blueness sleepy as beauty when sneezing the pronoun [...]

POETRY: This Morning, I Wanted Four Legs by Jane Hirshfield

September 14, 2018

Nothing on two legs weighs much, or can. An elephant, a donkey, even a cookstove—those legs, a person could stand on. Two legs pitch you forward. Two legs tire. They look for another two legs to be with, to move one set forward to music while letting the other move back. They want to carve into a tree trunk: 2gether 4ever. Nothing on two legs can bark, can whinny or chuff. Tonight, though, everything’s different. Tonight I want [...]

POETRY: My Life Was The Size Of My Life by Jane Hirshfield

September 7, 2018

My life was the size of my life. Its rooms were room-sized, its soul was the size of a soul. In its background, mitochondria hummed, above it sun, clouds, snow, the transit of stars and planets. It rode elevators, bullet trains, various airplanes, a donkey. It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose. It ate, it slept, it opened and closed its hands, its windows. Others, I know, had lives larger. Others, I know, had lives shorter. The depth of lives, too, is different. There were times my life and I made jokes together. There were times we made bread. Once, I grew moody and distant. I told my life I would like some time, I would like to try seeing others. In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned. I was hungry, then, and my life, my [...]

POETRY: I Wanted Only A Little by Jane Hirshfield

August 31, 2018

I wanted, I thought, only a little, two teaspoons of silence— one for sugar, one for stirring the wetness. No. I wanted a Cairo of silence, a Kyoto. In every hanging garden mosses and waters. The directions of silence: north, west, south, past, future. It comes through any window one inch open, like rain driven sideways. Grief shifts, as a grazing horse does, one leg to the other. But a horse sleeping sleeps with all legs [...]

POETRY: In Praise Of Coldness by Jane Hirshfield

August 8, 2018

“If you wish to move your reader,” Chekhov wrote, “you must write more coldly.” Herakleitos recommended, “A dry soul is best.” And so at the center of many great works is found a preserving dispassion, like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective, or the tiny packets of desiccant enclosed in a box of new shoes or seeds. But still the vanishing point is not the painting, the silica is not the blossoming plant. Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains. To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?— Scent of rocking distances, smoke of blue trees out the window, hampers of bread, picked cabbage, boiled meat. Scent of the knowable journey. Neither a person entirely broken nor one [...]

POETRY: In A Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed by Jane Hirshfield

August 1, 2018

In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed, the mushroom scent lingers. As the sea must keep for a long time the scent of the whale. As a person who’s once loved completely, a country once conquered, does not release that stunned knowledge. They must want to be found, those strange-shaped, rising morels, clownish puffballs. Lichens have served as a lamp wick. Clean-burning coconuts, olives. Dried salmon, sheep fat, a carcass of petrel set blazing: light that is fume and abradement. Unburnable mushrooms are other. They darken the air they come into. Theirs the scent of having been traveled, been [...]

POETRY: Compassion (Three Poems)

January 9, 2013

Painting of a White Gate and Sky For Betsy There is no one in the picture so you must enter it. Your dress held together with bent pins. You must enter with your heart of gray snow. There is no one in the bank left corner so you must stand there. You with your wrists chained, with your stomach locked up. You with emptiness tapping sorrow’s code in its cage of bone. The steps are grown over with sharp blades. No one has been there. You are the first one. Desperate, proper, your heels leave deep punctures. You with breath failing. You with your mother’s ring. With your belt undone. You with your mind of twisted ferns. There is no one at the gate so you must stand there. You with your picked-over heart. You with shoulders of cracked [...]