Jane Hirshfield

Image by Nick Rosza

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.


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