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Poem: Falcon

From our poet of the month: Jane Hirshfield

Illustration of falcon flying

Getty/Fotoillustrator

“How close to human / must the breathed-in air come / before it develops a sense of shame or humor?”

Falcon

Incapable of betrayal: a tree. 

Incapable of holding a secret: a stone. 

Without contempt for self or other: 
an ant, a bee. 

Today I and the unhooded bird  
that sits on my head 
are looking in different directions,
I into the blurring past, he into the blurring future. 

How many other pasts and futures, 
between and around us, we miss. 

Incapable of ungenerosity: grass;
cut, it simply keeps growing. 

Without obligation: mosquitoes. 

How close to human 
must the breathed-in air come 
before it develops a sense of shame or humor? 

Each day the falcon’s view a little clearer.

Excerpted from Ledger by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2020 by Jane Hirshfield. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Listen to Jane Hirshfield read “Falcon”:

Jane Hirshfield shared her insight with S&H:

“The world’s events feel to me, more and more, unanswerable questions we are nonetheless called on to answer. For answerable questions, we have engineering, mathematics, repeatable recipes. For the unanswerable ones, we have art, music, poems.”

Read more from Jane Hirshfield: the poem “Practice.”


About the Author

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry and has edited and co-translated four books presenting the work of world poets from the past. Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hal-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Her poems appear in a wide range of outlets. A resident of Northern California, she is a chancellor emerita of the Academy of American Poets.

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