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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 29, 2018.
About this Poem 

“What is there to say of mortality? My friend died of glioblastoma, three years after his diagnosis. Forty years ago, we spent three months in a blue tent pitched by a stream below Blackcap Mountain in the Sierra Nevada. Blue scorpion venom: he and his wife traveled to Cuba during his illness, twice, to bring this treatment home; a few times I administered the drops into his nostrils. Persimmon pudding: near the end, when the time for trying restricted eating as treatment was over, I made one, with persimmons from another friend's tree. My friend ate it happily. As meanwhile all of us who loved him took in gratefully, greedily, his words, his dearness, his unshakeable love of this world, and of us.”
—Jane Hirshfield

Dog Tag

At last understanding
that everything my friend had been saying
for the thirty-three months since he knew
were words of the dog tag, words of, whatever else, 
the milled and stamped-into metal of what stays behind.
Blackcap Mountain. Blue scorpion venom. Persimmon pudding.
He spoke them.
He could not say love enough times.
It clinked against itself, it clinked against its little chain.

Copyright © 2018 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight collections of poetry, includingThe Beauty: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), which was long listed for the National Book Award. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.

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A librarian in Calcutta and an entomologist in Prague
sign their moon-faced illicit emails,
“ton entanglée.”

No one can explain it.
The strange charm between border collie and sheep,
leaf and wind, the two distant electrons.

There is, too, the matter of a horse race.

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The dog, dead for years, keeps coming back in the dream.
We look at each other there with the old joy.
It was always her gift to bring me into the present—

Which sleeps, changes, awakens, dresses, leaves.

Happiness and unhappiness
differ as a bucket hammered from gold differs from one of

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I moved my chair into sun
I sat in the sun
the way hunger is moved when called fasting.

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