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.

Recordings

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield Reading from her Poems

1For What Binds Us

£0.89

2The Poet

£0.89

3Tree

£0.89

4Happiness

£0.89

5Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight

£0.89

6In Praise of Coldness

£0.89

7Burlap Sack

£0.89

8Mule Heart

£0.89

9Changing Everything

£0.89

10Narrowness

£0.89

11A Thought

£0.89

12Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World

£0.89

13The Silence

£0.89

14Rebus

£0.89

15Poem with Two Endings

£0.89

16Identity

£0.89

17Milk

£0.89

18To Opinion

£0.89

19To Judgment: An Assay

£0.89

20Possibility: An Assay

£0.89

21Da Capo

£0.89

22Spell To Be Said Upon Departure

£0.89

23Empedocles' Physics

£0.89

24Percolation

£0.89

25Habit

£0.89

26The Envoy

£0.89

27The Weighing

£0.89

28Ripeness

£0.89

29Critique of Pure Reason

£0.89

30The Heat of Autumn

£0.89

31Hope and Love

£0.89

32The Adamantine Perfection of Desire

£0.89

33Optimism

£0.89

34The Bearded Woman

No preview avaialable.£0.89

35Three Times My Life has Opened

£0.89

36When Your Life Looks Back

£0.89

37On Reading Brecht

£0.89

38Manners / Rwanda

£0.89

39Late Prayer

£0.89

40The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead

£0.89

41Theology

£0.89

42Red Berries

£0.89

43Vinegar and Oil

£0.89

44A Cedary Fragrance

£0.89

45Pompeii

£0.89

46Stone and Knife

£0.89

47Opening the Hands Between Here and Here

No preview avaialable.£0.89

48Vilnius

£0.89

49After Long Silence

£0.89

50Pillow

£0.89

51Each Happiness Ringed By Lions

£0.89

52In A Room with Five People, Six Griefs

£0.89

53Salt Heart

£0.89

54The Bell Zygmunt

£0.89

55It Was Like This: You Were Happy

£0.89

Books by Jane Hirshfield