Perspective

Paints one wall darker than the other,
making a corner.
Makes one leaf more red than another, leaving a tree.

Blocks with a headline, a smoke plume, a phone call
what had seemed important.

Holds one perfume close, indelible, while all others
     fade.

Is cubic from every direction, except when rounded.
Sneezes at ardor, at boredom, despair.

Cannot be found in general, yet is everywhere local.

Likes magic, for which it is useful.
Likes dice.

Likes everything just as it is, then just as it is, then just
      as it is.

Enjoys folding anything—
card hands, laundry, letters, elbows and knees.

Hums softly in Giotto, loudly in Tintoretto.

Likes mirrors, windows, old portraits, taking the long
      view—

this Chinese scroll, for instance, unrolling as if
     without limit
its small boat, downrushing river, and strolling
     long-sleeved officials
in oddly shaped caps,
the curious horse looking out
from behind the long-needled pine it’s been
     momentarily tied to forever.

Presented by

Jane Hirshfield’s most recent collection is Come, Thief (2011). She lives in Mill Valley, California.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.
More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In