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By Edward Hirsch

At this hour the soul floats weightlessly

through the city streets, speechless and invisible,

astonished by the smoky blend of grays and golds

seeping out of the air, the dark half-tones


of dusk suddenly filling the urban sky

while the body sits listlessly by the window

sullen and heavy, too exhausted to move,

too weary to stand up or to lie down.


At this hour the soul is like a yellow wing

slipping through the treetops, a little ecstatic

cloud hovering over the sidewalks, calling out

to the approaching night, “Amaze me, amaze me,”


while the body sits glumly by the window

listening to the clear summons of the dead

transparent as glass, clairvoyant as crystal.

Some nights it is almost ready to join them.


Oh, this is a strange, unlikely tethering,

a furious grafting of the quick and the slow:

when the soul flies up, the body sinks down

and all night—locked in the same cramped room—


they go on quarreling, stubbornly threatening

to leave each other, wordlessly filling the air

with the sound of a low internal burning.

How long can this bewildering marriage last?


At midnight the soul dreams of a small fire

of stars flaming on the other side of the sky,

but the body stares into an empty night sheen,

a hollow-eyed darkness. Poor luckless angels,


feverish old loves: don’t separate yet.

Let what rises live with what descends.


Edward Hirsch, “Poor Angels” from Wild Gratitude. Copyright © 2003 by Edward Hirsch. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Poetry Anthology 1912-2002 (2002)

Poet Bio

Born in Chicago, Edward Hirsch spent many years at the University of Houston teaching in the Graduate Creative Writing Program. He is currently president of the Guggenheim Foundation in New York City. He has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, and many other awards. He wrote How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999), appropriate for beginners and experienced poets alike. His other book of commentary, The Demon and the Angel (2002), gives insight into scores of poets, writers, and artists of many genres.

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