Renewal Soup

Renewal Soup

Slow Dancer Press
London, UK

28 pages, softcover, A5 pamphlet

ISBN-10: 1-871033-34-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-871033-34-2

Available from:

the poet, for $5 or £2.50 (includes postage)




Since all of life is just a way of going home,

I’m here again, in love with you, my dearest,

taking the evening stroll in the piazza

in my broad straw hat with the paisley band,


greeting the stylish citizens of Siena,

“Buona sera, buona sera.”

I first came here in ’38, brought by my parents.

The happiest time of their lives,


they said years later — giddy

with relief at their escape, still certain

they could get their parents out next.  Who could

blame them for succumbing to the warm


Tuscan autumn, purple grapes, blood oranges,

the large-hearted language and mellifluous people?

The rhapsody ended when they heard the news —

Their parents had been murdered:


(“…They didn’t  know how to run…they tied their wrists

to the back of a truck and made them run…)”

From then until their own deaths,

they knew they had stolen the apple.


Millions of poppies in the fields across

the farm where we stay, pointillist red on green.

At night, a sparkle of fireflies.

I feel weepy, afraid,


for if I say this (is) (was) the happiest

time of my life (it is!) (it was!), I’ve dared

be happier than my parents, deciding

to survive even when others might drown.


In The Universal Judgment —

an altar panel in the Basilica —

the saved, to the left, draped

in damask coats and moire gowns, walk about


in orchards of figs and arbors of grapes,

amazed at their escape; gather in clusters

in quiet recollection with family

and old friends, amazed, forever amazed.


To the right are the damned: naked, draped

by black hominids mutilating breasts

and genitals; bodies piled in fiery baths

and frigid pools, rapes and poisonous vapors.


The dark between the final chitter

of the swifts and the aubade of the thrush

is called le ore blu, the Blue Hours,

when the land relaxes, blue vapors float


through the trees, the trees breathe in the heat,

and stars drift in eternal promenade —

while in the beds and cemeteries of Siena,

lovers drift in dreamless, permanent sleep.


Old stone houses lean toward each other

as if in quiet recollection, woven

together by cobblestone lanes.  Each way

seems to return upon itself, familiar


but different — with just a small tilt of the head,

an infinity of compositions:

chimney on bell, bell on basilica,

angels on clotheslines, a geranium pot


red-spotting a sill, angles and corners

and curves.  By chance, we look up to see

a blood-orange moon rising in the needle’s-

eye between two steeples.


Why are women so beautiful in any

country to which I’ve just come?  Here I love

their henna-red hair, their bold walk, over-

made mouths, the cigarette voices.


Each way comes back to way.  It was on this same

cobbled lane I once told you I couldn’t decide.

What if you had then turned to the left and I

to the right?  I believe our ways would have returned,


returning each to Siena, our bolt-hole

from life.  Wouldn’t your henna-red hair catch my eye,

disappearing down a curved lane, or across

a piazza with mass just letting out?


A Gregorian chant resonates, coheres

to millenial layers of hum

impressed on the permanent stone.

St. Catherine of Siena went to a man


about to be hanged and “brought him to a state of grace,”

refreshed him, consoled and forgave

his years of rage as orphan, cut-purse, bravo,

gave him faith of an existence


beyond himself —  how I feel when,

in my moments of incendiary

self-loathing, you call, and your voice,

like baptism, cooling me.


If grace is true, the mussels in garlic

and cool vernaccia, a hot bath with you,

and that moment we both chewed your hair that slipped

into your mouth, are gifts beyond understanding.


St. Bernadino’s skull lies in a glass

and gold reliquary, along with a few

long bones, knuckles of vertebrae, a pelvis.

St. Bernadino was canonized


for reviving freshly dead children.

I’ve done that myself and more than once.

The real miracle is the opportunity.

Who and what gave me to my life — surely


had my father that night turned to the left,

my mother to the right, surely wouldn’t

another night have still brought me to writing this,

have brought me?  Perhaps I am that other night.



is a Tuscan soup made of

white beans, a head of purple garlic,

knuckles of old bread, kale and white cabbage,

vegetables and stock.  It’s meant to be

reheated and stored, reheated and stored,

for unexpected guests who come to the door.

The soup is renewed by adding in more

old bread, more stock, more beans.


In a chapel in the Duomo of Siena

a young woman in bronze, life-size, holds up

a salver filled with oil — the light lit daily —

in adoration of the Madonna and Child


in the niche.  As clouds play across the sky,

light from the oriel strokes her beatific

face and long-braided hair.  I circle her and

circle her, I almost want to take her


in my arms until, with no embarrassment,

I stroke her permanent cheek.  I feel something

like a moment of grace.  I will die,

but not for what I am.


The evening swifts emerge from oriels

in the brick walls of the palazzi,

random black darts against a royal-blue

canopy and parmesan moon.


Bless stones.  Bless children.  Bless light.

Bless swifts.  Bless saints.  Bless soup.



“Hirschhorn transcends his past, takes in other religions, delights in their logic and observances. Here is love. Here is poetry so rich in modern wonder that I want to quote it, pass it on.

“These poems are full of a wisdom and a depth I see very rarely in poetry… This is a beautiful book, one to be cherished, and if some major British publisher doesn’t bring us a full collection soon, there’s no justice.”

—Steven Waling, Poetry Quarterly Review, 2000, Nether Stowey, Somerset, England


“Hirschhorn’s poems travel from Minnesota to Cambodia to Java, effortlessly — what connects them is the confidence of his voice, which is at once very personal and direct.”

—Poetry London Newsletter, London, England