Poem introduction

I'll begin with a poem written when still in my twenties, one that I can never decide whether to call a love poem, or an end-of-love poem, or a poem simply of time and our largest forms of connection within it, because it is all those things.

For What Binds Us

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down --
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest --

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.


from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions (Bloodaxe, 2005), © Jane Hirshfield 2005, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books.

Recordings

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield Downloads

1For What Binds Us

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2The Poet

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3Tree

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4Happiness

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5Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight

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6In Praise of Coldness

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7Burlap Sack

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8Mule Heart

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9Changing Everything

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10Narrowness

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11A Thought

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12Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World

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13The Silence

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14Rebus

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15Poem with Two Endings

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16Identity

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17Milk

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18To Opinion

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19To Judgment: An Assay

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20Possibility: An Assay

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21Da Capo

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22Spell To Be Said Upon Departure

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23Empedocles' Physics

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24Percolation

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25Habit

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26The Envoy

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27The Weighing

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28Ripeness

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29Critique of Pure Reason

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30The Heat of Autumn

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31Hope and Love

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32The Adamantine Perfection of Desire

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33Optimism

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34The Bearded Woman

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35Three Times My Life has Opened

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36When Your Life Looks Back

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37On Reading Brecht

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38Manners / Rwanda

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39Late Prayer

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40The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead

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41Theology

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42Red Berries

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43Vinegar and Oil

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44A Cedary Fragrance

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45Pompeii

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46Stone and Knife

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47Opening the Hands Between Here and Here

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48Vilnius

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49After Long Silence

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50Pillow

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51Each Happiness Ringed By Lions

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52In A Room with Five People, Six Griefs

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53Salt Heart

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54The Bell Zygmunt

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55It Was Like This: You Were Happy

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Books by Jane Hirshfield