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His illustrations ran for so many years in the New Yorker magazine that one might have assumed it was the magazine’s own style. Here’s a link to some of Hirschfeld’s Best.


“Hirschfeld folded,” teleprompter

ran the scripted newsman

stumbled on, still staining

fingers in the ink,

drama with the lines he drew

alive until he wasn’t, squeezing

just a couple more from this

bold new century’s turn

like one who didn’t have the sense

to be defeated, ninety-nine still

working at a trade one

might call quaint.

If he was happy in the two

miserable in three or more

just passing ‘til he passed, one

needs knowing ‘bout the subject.

Praise his passion, lines so long

they coiled upon themselves

expressive, his root yearnings

like the painted clown.

He captured bucketsful of characters

some falling off the edges,

like Bottom for the pit

others crowning rafters.

Waking in old age at dawn

arthritis and the birds of hope

scuffling to a workplace

shelving alcove more than room,

a space for his quick pen

to play upon the page when

not upon a central point: like

Charlie’s dog we dance

or else we fade. Whenever did

cartooning seem the grander?

A man who’d hang there for New York

did see something in the fashion mags

not Edward Munch – obsessive colorist

Hirschfeld plied a lesser lunacy

and are there books I should be

reading, lines yet to be drawn?

Al Hirschfeld, January 20, 2003