First Poetry Portfolio

Jane Hirshfield, Timothy Victor Richardson, and Rafael Campo


Two Poems

by Jane Hirshfield

Three Mornings

In Istanbul, my ears
three mornings heard the early call to prayer.
At fuller light, heard birds then,
water birds and tree birds, birds of migration.
Like three knowledges,
I heard them: incomprehension,
sweetened distance, longing.
When the body dies, where will they go,
those migrant birds and prayer calls,
as heat from sheets when taken from a dryer?
With voices of the ones I loved,
great loves and small loves, train wheels,
crickets, clock-ticks, thunder—where will they,
when in fragrant, tumbled heat they also leave?


It is hard to unlatch a day
from noun and story.

Breath pours
like water
out of a small bowl into a large.

One says,

Another says,
Listen, runner—
underwater things are fragrant to fish.

Jane Hirshfield has published seven books of poetry; the most recent is Come, Thief (2011). She has also written an influential book of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, and edited the anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred.


from Stations of the Cross

by Timothy Victor Richardson

A crown of sonnets is a sequence of seven Italian sonnets in which the last line of each sonnet is the first line of the next. The last line of the cycle repeats the opening line. “Stations of the Cross” is a double crown of fourteen Italian sonnets.

Station VI

Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.

 To be the star a wanting world transfixed
meant more travail with ire on every side
(the cold denunciations hecklers price)
until a kind emotion came unfixed

and she stepped up. Entranced imagination
conjures the cloth, Veronica’s approach.
The evenhanded act no one would broach,
but her, still kindles baffled fascination.

While crimson droplets striated his face
as he trudged through this unforgiving plight,
a feeling woman wiped away all trace

and opened her wet napkin to the light:
the mirror image of perfected grace
because he trusted his reward was right.

Station VII

Jesus falls a second time.

Because he trusted his reward was right,
went on, slipped here and took another fall
under the awkward logs that made him sprawl,
he was again left there for men to smite.

He took on the sheer agony to come.
Swallowing gritty footprints he was forced
to taste, he heard the thumping blood that coursed
within and grasped how the condemned succumb.

Even with help, the Passion proved too much.
Struggling to stand beneath the lurching cross,
he plunged and hollowed out his knee with such

a gash, but would not quit his albatross
nor rise, once more, and heal with his soft touch
the scores of mortal flaws he came across.

Station VIII

Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.

The scores of mortal flaws he came across
were left unhealed since they were obstacles
to which a ‘man’ could lend no miracles.
Still, many women felt how grave his loss

would be, lamented as they went to meet
the master on his sanguinary way.
Would their drugged wine or something they could say
allay the wrongs he chose not to defeat?

He turned and uttered, “For yourselves, now cry.
If they will do these things when trees are green,”
he asked, “what shall be done when they are dry?”

In ruin’s closing fist, he was serene.
They wet his feet; galled tears from every eye
as the divine design rose to be seen.

Station IX

Jesus falls a third time.

As the divine design rose to be seen,
he reeled again and fell so hard this time,
right here, where he began the final climb
to the supreme assault he had foreseen.

Shoulders crashed first and then the twisted crown.
His forehead hit the adamantine road
and riddled the cruel thorns at every node
as the full impact of the cross came down.

To rise, he summoned every shade of will
he could with a transcendent trust in God
he had this one-time mission to fulfill,

but failed. Once more, they righted him. He trod
the stones and made his way up this last hill
to hang where blood would robe the tufts of sod.

A former psychologist, Timothy Victor Richardson is the author of the novel Ceremony of Innocence. His poetry is the subject of a film, The Force of Poetry.


Faith Healing

by Rafael Campo

The tiny silver crucifix she wore
enacted what it seemed we did to her.

She rested in the bed, not at peace yet,
she said, but trying to forgive. The dead

moved quietly around the room, unseen:
last week, a man with liver cancer keened

where she did now, before he passed; and then
another woman whose lymphoma drenched

her in cold sweats, her lymph nodes thick and massed
wherever I had pressed. “Dear Lord,” I said,

attempting what I thought was prayer, “—Lord,
forgive me for not healing them.” Unsaid,

the words of her forgiveness came to me
like kindness, like a sudden memory.

The tiny crucifix refused to bleed;
instead, it shone there like a misplaced need,

a way to understand the blameless night.
Adjusting my ophthalmoscope’s light,

I peered inside her, seeking what we may
of pain. I saw what she had tried to say:

the pulse of blood, the silence of my heart;
forgiveness, not impossible, but hard.

Rafael Campo, M.D., is director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Katherine Swan Ginsburg Humanism in Medicine Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, as well as author of five books of poetry.

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