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In Wild Gratitude, Edward Hirsch unfurls a kaleidoscope of inventive poems that honor other artists and writers, confront urban life and embrace East European fugitives, as well as eulogizing his grandparents and recollecting his youth. At their very best the poems in this collection, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, somehow merge these subjects, as is the case in "Three Journeys," which draws parallels between a bag lady's troubles and those of an artist. In all, the book offers readers a sweeping accumulation of work by a talented poet deserving of greater attention.
and passed on. Whoever has stood alone in the night’s deep shadows listening to laughter coming from a well-lit house will know that John Clare’s loneliness was unbending. And whoever has felt that same unbending loneliness will also know what an old woman felt today as she followed an obedient path between the huge green garbage cans behind Kroger’s Super-Market and the small silver ones behind Clarence’s grocery. I began this day by following a bag lady in honor of John Clare but
against abandoned buildings, women hurrying home on deserted side streets, policemen turning blind corners, and even thieves stepping from alleys all stare up at once. Why else do sleepwalkers move toward the windows, or old men drag flimsy lawn chairs onto fire escapes, or hardened criminals press sad foreheads to steel bars? Because the night is alive with lamps! That’s why in dark houses all over the city dreams stir in the pillows, a million plumes of breath rise into the sky. A
the slight stirring of leaves in a wet field, the crescent of another man’s face flaming in the trees. Outside, the snow falls into yesterday’s snow, tomorrow’s stormy rain. But, inside, a moon shivers in the spaces between your wife’s outstretched arms, between her shoulders and her legs, between the skin of water pulled over her watery lungs and the white egg growing larger and larger in her chest. This is the same moon that shudders in darkness inside of darkness, behind your eyes.
stagger And weave with exhaustion From too many cities, too many Ringing triangles and suspicious eyes, Too many bored adults, pawing children. All the bear wants is to Collapse in his own poor cage Under stars scattered Like red kerchiefs through the trees; All he wants is to sleep. But The stranger whispers something Indecipherable, something convincing In a fluent tongue, and so The four thick arms continue to Grip and lock and hug, The four heavy legs stagger on. Fur and skin.
starving suitcases packed for a house of detention. We were so scared that one night we sliced a ripe pear into thirds and offered its three soft faces to the darkness as a gift of appeasement. The darkness refused to acknowledge the fruit, but scavengers accepted it gladly. And yet no one—not even the crows—can pronounce the misery of a childhood floating through the streets at night, hanging on dark windows. I served faithfully on the tugs Vihar, Torok, and Tatár; I trained as a