Jack Hirschman

The eyes of Zagreb turn,
not aside, but inside there’s

“My sister died when I was
23,” she said, “a twin like
New York, New York.

I collapsed and still haven’t
climbed out of my own
ruins. She was

my right arm and now I’m
left with my Left self
bombed day and night.

She was called Lubak.
I’m known as Kabul
in Croatia.”

Her brassiere I became
aware of while we talked
of Paul Celan.

I’m certainly not going to
drink the inside of sorrow
without laughing.

I walked and walked with
her until we stopped
because you appeared.

One more, I said to myself,
haiku, but it stopped
in mid-syllable,

which is simply life and this
is simply writing about it
as if…

You, then darkness, did
come over and lay your
bombs in the cracks

of all our hearts. I meant
to tell you I died when
you began another war.

But I forgot. Easy to forget
when safe. But ask
a dead baby in the dust:

she will burn you with her
eyebrow in eternal irony.
There are no words

for this monstrosity that
we’ve allowed to happen.
You were born there,

where bombs rain and
you first learned how
everything has a soul

that reaches at every
point in its existence out
to immerse itself

in the kiss that underlies
all motion—that you were
conceived there, where

the planets can longer
be seen, let alone be
seen weeping,

and all I want to do is to
eat a shoe from the inside
out. My darkness is yours,

my nest your inhabited cry.
Death’s overthrown only
by this river I drink

while Nothingness is
elbowing my ribs; I sway
on the broken shaking.

It’s the everyday’s been
rendered frightening
in its normalcy,

a measureless abyss
with so much of body
poised to leap into it.

O fling yourself into the
air, I don’t hear, then do.
It’s the only letting go.

Leap! You’ll kiss Africa,
Greece will rise to you.
You’ll see Hart and Paul

and Volodya again. I step
forward back. I bend
over down.

Never have we been so
happily attuned so

We’ve been normed to
war. The Father, as
Heraclites said.

I kiss the dirty

JACK HIRSCHMAN was born in New York City and grew up in the Bronx. He was a popular and innovative professor at UCLA in the 1970s, before he was fired for his anti-war activities. Hirschman has lived in California ever since, making an artistic and political home in the North Beach district of San Francisco. He is known for his radical engagement with both poetry and politics: he is a member of the Union of Street Poets, a group that distributes leaflets of poems to people on the streets; was instrumental in the formation of the Union of Left Writers of San Francisco; and is a former poet laureate of San Francisco.