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Jack Hirschman

Jack Hirschman was born in New York City. He earned degrees from the City College of New York and Indiana University. A poet and translator, Hirschman is the author of numerous books of poetry including, All That’s Left (City Lights Books, 2008) and The Arcanes (Multimedia, 2006). The former poet laureate of San Francisco, Hirschman taught at the University of California, Los Angeles. He lives in San Francisco.

By This Poet


The Happiness

There's a happiness, a joy 
in one soul, that's been 
buried alive in everyone 
and forgotten.

It isn't your barroom joke 
or tender, intimate humor 
or affections of friendliness 
or big, bright pun.

They're the surviving survivors 
of what happened when happiness 
was buried alive, when 
it no longer looked out

of today's eyes, and doesn't 
even manifest when one 
of us dies, we just walk away 
from everything, alone

with what's left of us, 
going on being human beings 
without being human, 
without that happiness.

All That's Left

All that's Left
     in the world
—whether in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia
as well as in China, Japan, the United States, 
Europe, the Middle East, Africa—
all of them cannot,
   despite their resistance,
   despite their refusal,
stop this march of death
because they, 
as well as all that's Right 
in the world,
   despite their refusal,
   despite their resistance,
already are counted among those
   in this last parade.
Communists and progressives,
nazis, fascists and reactionaries,
zionists and anarchists of every stripe—
none are excluded, none can evade the march.

This one's not coming 
with hammer and sickles or swastikas
or flags of any land.

This one's the march 
all wars surrender to.

But when?!   comes the unanimous cry.
When will it really happen?
If death is peace,
when can I truly die?

You will never know, and yet you do,
because you may already have,
and this life is your way
of paying homage to the power
that loves you enough 
to have taken your life away
and left you with the taste
of immortality on your lips.

Nothing mystical: no Christ,
Allah, Jahweh or Buddha in the wings.
Even lying on your back you're marching.

This is not a cynical or pessimist
or nihilist poem. Join death 
to your life and you will live
as if there were no drum to march to.

There is no march at all.

You're done. All will be well for all.

Poets Eleven Poem

Between the page with the heart
and the mind wrestling upon it,

and the ear which later will receive
those limbs of light as perfect harmony,

there's a stillness whose volume speaks
worlds of words defiant of measure,

treasures of the unsayable, secrets
of the ever-beginning enchantment

and the never-ending gathering
at the lips of the kiss of the poem.