A Hunger So Honed

Tracy K. Smith

Driving home late through townHe woke me for a deer in the road,The light smudge of it fragile in the distance,Free in a way that made me ashamed for our flesh—His hand on my hand, even the weightOf our voices not speaking.I watched a long timeAnd a long time after we were too far to see,Told myself I still saw it nosing the shrubs,All phantom and shadow, so silentIt must have seemed I hadn’t wakened,But passed into a deeper, more cogent state—The mind a dark city, a disappearing,A handkerchiefSwallowed by a fist.I thought of the animal’s mouthAnd the hunger entrusted it. A hungerSo honed the green leaves merely maintain it.We want so much,When perhaps we live bestIn the spaces between loves,That unconscious roving,The heart its own rough animal.Unfettered.                The second time,There were two that faced us a momentThe way deer will in their Greek perfection,As though we were just some offeringThe night had delivered.They disappeared between two houses,And we drove on, our own limbsSloppy after that, our need for one anotherGreedy, weak.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Tracy K. Smith is the author of Wade in the Water; Life on Mars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Duende, winner of the James Laughlin Award; and The Body’s Question, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She is also the editor of an anthology, American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time, and the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. From 2017 to 2019, Smith served as Poet Laureate of the United States. She teaches at Princeton University.

Here: Poems for the Planet is a lovesong to a planet in crisis. Summoning a chorus of over 125 diverse poetic voices, this anthology approaches the impending environmental crisis with a sense of urgency and hopefulness. Now more than ever is the time for this book as it seeks to galvanize readers, students, teachers, philanthropists and everyday people to address the realities of climate change head on and become individual catalysts for change. Here looks at the world with a renewed sense of courage, fighting fear that so often leads to indifference and cynicism. The anthology also includes an activist guide, created in tandem with the Union of Concerned Scientists, and an introduction by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. With these poems, we hope you will see with new eyes what the astronauts saw the first time they peered down from space at our tiny world.

"This book, Here: Poems for the Planet, contains many beautiful, generous poems and ideas for action. It is my heartfelt hope that they will inspire readers who ask themselves, 'But what can I do?' to see that there is a way forward―learning to share the earth and its resources, while taking care of it together."
―His Holiness The Dalai Lama

“By so exquisitely and compassionately illuminating our planetary predicament, these spirited poems of diverse perspectives inspire us to step forward in hope.”

Here: Poems for the Planet is so much more than a poetry collection [it is] dedicated to all we stand to lose as the Earth heats up.”
Tricycle Magazine

“In these pages scientists write to poets―and to all of us who love poems. We are sharing common language, looking at the same marvelous, embattled world together and wanting it to stay.”
Poetry Northwest

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.