Jane Hirshfield

The Conversations I Remember Most | As A Hammer Speaks to a Nail
August 9, 2014 Hirshfield Jane

The Conversations I Remember Most


The way a sweet cake wants

a little salt in it,

or blackness a little gray nearby to be seen,

or a pot unused remains good for boiling water,


the conversations I remember most

are the ones that were interrupted.


Wait, you say, running after them,

I forgot to ask—


Night rain, they answer.

Silver on the fire-thorn’s red berries.




As A Hammer Speaks to a Nail


When all else fails,

fail boldly,

fail with conviction,

as a hammer speaks to a nail,

or a lamp left on in daylight.


Say one.

If two does not follow,

say three, if that fails, say life,

say future.


Lacking future,

try bucket,

lacking iron, try shadow.


If shadow too fails,

if your voice falls and falls and keeps falling,

meets only air and silence,


say one, again,

but say it with greater conviction,


as a nail speaks to a picture,

as a hammer left on in daylight.

Jane Hirshfield‘s most recent book, Ledger (Knopf, 2020) centers on the crises of biosphere, climate, and justice. Her work, which has been translated into fifteen languages, appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, and ten editions of The Best American Poetry.  A former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and founder of Poets For Science, she was elected in 2019 to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Photo: © Curt Richter