Cataclysm

It begins subtly:
the maple
withdraws an inch from the birch tree.

The porcupine
wants nothing to do with the skink.

Fish unschool,
sheep unflock to separately graze.

Clouds meanwhile
declare to the sky
they have nothing to do with the sky,
which is not visible as they are,

nor knows the trick of turning
into infant, tumbling pterodactyls.

The turtles and moonlight?
Their long arrangement is over.

As for the humans.
Let us not speak of the humans.
Let us speak of their language.

The first person singular
condemns the second person plural
for betrayals neither has words left to name.

The fed consider the hungry
and stay silent.

Jane Hirshfield’s ninth poetry collection, Ledger, a book centered on the environmental crisis and issues of social justice, will appear from Knopf in March 2020. Named by The Washington Post as “among the modern masters,” in 2017 Hirshfield founded Poets For Science. She is also the author of two now-classic books of essays, Nine Gates and Ten Windows, and the editor/co-translator of four books presenting world poets from the deep past. Her most recent book of poetry is The Beauty, long-listed for the 2015 National Book Award. A former chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, Hirshfield was elected this year to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.