By Jane Hirshfield b. 1953 Jane Hirshfield
My mare, when she was in heat,   
would travel the fenceline for hours,   
wearing the impatience
in her feet into the ground.

Not a stallion for miles, I’d assure her,   
give it up.

She’d widen her nostrils,
sieve the wind for news, be moving again,   
her underbelly darkening with sweat,   
then stop at the gate a moment, wait   
to see what I might do.
Oh, I knew
how it was for her, easily
recognized myself in that wide lust:   
came to stand in the pasture
just to see it played.
Offered a hand, a bucket of grain—
a minute’s distraction from passion   
the most I gave.

Then she’d return to what burned her:   
the fence, the fence,
so hoping I might see, might let her free.   
I’d envy her then,
to be so restlessly sure
of heat, and need, and what it takes   
to feed the wanting that we are—

only a gap to open
the width of a mare,
the rest would take care of itself.   
Surely, surely I knew that,
who had the power of bucket   
and bridle—
she would beseech me, sidle up,   
be gone, as life is short.
But desire, desire is long.

Jane Hirshfield, “Heat” from Of Gravity and Angels. Copyright © 1988 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Of Gravity and Angels (Wesleyan University Press, 1988)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jane Hirshfield b. 1953

Subjects Nature, Relationships, Pets, Love, Animals, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Jane  Hirshfield


Award-winning poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield is the author of several collections of verse, including The Beauty (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award, Come, Thief (2011), After (2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award, among others. Hirshfield has also translated the work of early women poets in collections such as . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Pets, Love, Animals, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.