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 has been a poet in residence for an experimental forest in Oregon and a neuroscience research program at UCSF. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages and her TED-Ed animated lesson on metaphor has received over 1.3 million views. Her nine published poetry books (most recently Ledger), two books of essays, and four books collecting and co-translating world poets from the deep past have received the Poetry Center Book Award, California Book Award, Columbia University’s National Translation Award, and been finalists or longlisted for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and England’s T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Founder of the traveling and online installation Poets for Science, a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and a member of Orion’s advisory board, she was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019. The Asking: New and Selected Poems comes out this September.