Jane Hirshfield

Image by Nick Rosza

Poem introduction

The title of this poem refers to a bell in the great cathedral of central Krakow. The bell also sometimes goes by the name of Sigismund.

The Bell Zygmunt

The Bell Zygmunt.

For fertility, a new bride is lifted to touch it with her left hand,
or possibly kiss it.
The sound close in, my friend told me later, is almost silent.

At ten kilometers even those who have never heard it know what it is.

If you stand near during thunder, she said,
you will hear a reply.

Six weeks and six days from the phone's small ringing,
replying was over.

She who cooked lamb and loved wine and wild-mushroom pastas.
She who when I saw her last was silent as the great Zygmunt mostly is,
a ventilator's clapper between her dry lips.

Because I could, I spoke. She laid her palm on my cheek to answer.
And soon again, to say it was time to leave.

I put my lips near the place a tube went into
the back of one hand.
The kiss - as if it knew what I did not yet - both full and formal.

As one would kiss the ring of a cardinal, or the rim
of that cold iron bell, whose speech can mean "Great joy,"
or - equally - "The city is burning. Come."

from After (Bloodaxe, 2006), © Jane Hirshfield 2006, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books.


Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield Reading from her Poems

1For What Binds Us

2The Poet



5Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight

6In Praise of Coldness

7Burlap Sack

8Mule Heart

9Changing Everything


11A Thought

12Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World

13The Silence


15Poem with Two Endings



18To Opinion

19To Judgment: An Assay

20Possibility: An Assay

21Da Capo

22Spell To Be Said Upon Departure

23Empedocles' Physics



26The Envoy

27The Weighing


29Critique of Pure Reason

30The Heat of Autumn

31Hope and Love

32The Adamantine Perfection of Desire


34The Bearded Woman

35Three Times My Life has Opened

36When Your Life Looks Back

37On Reading Brecht

38Manners / Rwanda

39Late Prayer

40The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead


42Red Berries

43Vinegar and Oil

44A Cedary Fragrance


46Stone and Knife

47Opening the Hands Between Here and Here


49After Long Silence


51Each Happiness Ringed By Lions

52In A Room with Five People, Six Griefs

53Salt Heart

54The Bell Zygmunt

55It Was Like This: You Were Happy

Books by Jane Hirshfield