Poetry: Jane Hirshfield, 'The Bell Zygmunt'

By Jane Hirshfield

originally published March 2004

Audio: Hear Jane Hirshfield read "The Bell Zygmunt" (1:31)

Also by Jane Hirshfield:
The Conversation (Fiction 2010)
Of Yield and Abandon (2009)
Vinegar and Oil (2008)
Pyracantha and Plum (2006)
Apple (1999)
The Poet (1997)
Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight (1996)
Lying (1994)
The Love of Aged Horses (1998)
Within This Tree (1991)
The Song (1986)

From the Archives:
Some Place Not Yet Known
An Interview with Jane Hirshfield (Sept. 18, 1997)

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."

Jane Hirshfield's forthcoming collection is First Light Edging Cirrus. Her previous books of poetry include After (2006) and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001). She lives in Mill Valley, California.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/04/poetry-jane-hirshfield-the-bell-zygmunt/39539/