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About this Poem 

“Much that once seemed impossibly difficult is later taken for granted; then, in age, it becomes again hard. For most of a life, the fingers only feel unmanageable if, say, at forty or fifty you decide to learn guitar or piano.

The unreachable is the magnet of desire. We long to long. Some things, though, are outside all this. No matter our own will or wish, they reach for us—a  great love; the unwriteable poem; all that becomes our own soon-enough-to-be-finished fates.”
Jane Hirshfield

A Person Protests to Fate

A person protests to fate:

“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”

Fate nods.
Fate is sympathetic.

To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
are triumphs
for only the very young,
the very old.

During the long middle:

conjugating a rivet
mastering tango
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before

and the penmanships love practices inside the body.

Copyright © 2015 by Jane Hirshfield. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Jane Hirshfield. Used with permission of the author.

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.

by this poet


I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup 
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers

but today
in rain

without coat     without hat