Letter to America by Jane Hirshfield

One Poem

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Spell To Be Said Against Hatred

Until each breath refuses “they,” “those,” “them.”
Until the Dramatis Personae of the book’s first page says “Each one is you.” Until hope bows to its hopelessness only as one self bows to another.
Until cruelty bends to its work and sees suddenly “I.”
Until anger and insult know themselves burnable legs of a useless chair.
Until the unsurprised unbidden knees find themselves nonetheless bending.
Until fear bows to its object as a bird’s shadow bows to its bird.
Until the ache of the solitude inside the hands, the ribs, the ankles.
Until the sound the mouse makes inside the mouth of the cat.
Until the inaudible acids bathing the coral.
Until what feels no one’s weighing is no longer weightless.
Until what feels no one’s earning is no longer taken.
Until grief, pity, confusion, laughter, longing see themselves mirrors.
Until by “we” we mean I, them, you, the muskrat, the tiger, the hunger.
Until by “I” we mean as a dog barks, sounding and vanishing and sounding and
              vanishing completely.
Until by “until” we mean I, we, you, them, the muskrat, the tiger, the hunger,
               the lonely barking of the dog before it is answered.




Jane HirshfieldJane Hirshfield’s most recent books are The Beauty (poems) and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (essays), both from Knopf in 2015. A current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, recent work appears in The New Yorker, The New York Times T Magazine, and the Canadian journal Brick. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read poetry by Jane Hirshfield previously appearing in Terrain.org: “Today, Another Universe” and Three Poems.

Photo of eagle at sunset by sipsa, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Jane Hirshfield courtesy the Steven Barclay Agency.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.