“In Ulvik” and “Branch”

Jane Hirshfield

In Ulvik

“He spent his whole life in Ulvik, working as a gardener in his own orchard.”
                                                                                                       (of Olav Hauge)

I too would like to work
as a gardener in my own orchard.
Every Friday I would pay myself
a decent, living wage,
taken in foldable cash from my own wallet,
and sometimes, if the weather was bad,
I would give myself the day off
and thank myself for my kindness
and answer myself, It’s nothing, nothing, go on now,
put your feet up, find somewhere warm.
And then I would go back into my house
and think of my kindness
and wonder if my gardener was warm now also
and if I was right to let myself
go away from my own orchard’s tending
even so briefly, and each of us
might be thinking, too, of the apples,
cold and wet and hanging in outside wind
and fattening on their own trees without us,
and one of us, first, then the other,
might start to wonder a little,
while pushing a cut of cured apple wood into the fire,
about loneliness and separateness and what  
it is lives outside one person’s skin and inside another’s.


A clock does not have hands, a face,
tell anything, rightly or wrongly, least of all time.

An empty branch does not long for its nondescript bird.

The bird is not the quick dash
that holds separate the world’s Yes from the world’s No.

Is there anywhere on earth one branch that has never been perched on?  

That is not what branches exist for. Yet the birds come.

Jane Hirshfield‘s ninth poetry collection, Ledger, will appear from Knopf in early 2020.