Archive for the ‘Jane Hirshfield’ Category



As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.



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Five days of silence can change the interior landscape. There is no place to hide. The mind is a whirling dervish that slows and stills. What initially resembles a cell phone tower receiving multiple conversations becomes a clear quiet lake. The reflections there are not distorted and have no context…what is, what has been, what will be simply is, has been and will be. There is nothing extra; no footnote or interpretive analysis…no because…no cause and no effect.

This may sound abstract. Let me simplify. The man in photo above is my husband. We have been acquainted for over twenty years…sometimes knowing each other deeply; sometimes unwilling to be that vulnerable. I’ve concocted various story lines over time about him, about me, about us…now, out of silence, I see, feel and know that nothing can tear or mend the fabric of our loving.


There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down —
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest —

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.


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Today is gray, wet, bone-cold, slippery…everything encased in ice. I feel frozen in time in a world that is speeding by…there’s decorating to do, cookies to bake, gifts to buy, cards to write…

I’ve gone ahead and done the unthinkable in an already busy season. I decided to paint the ceiling, walls and trim in my dining room and library. This means moving books, shelves, furniture, stuff. Which I’ve done. Many, many, many books…lots of stuff! To say that I am living in chaos is an understatement. Now, I await a repair job on the bookcases by my dear husband. This is a time when I wish I had paid more attention in shop class. I’m good with Spackle, I’m skilled at plastering, I’m great with a roller and brush…carpentry is not my forte. And I’m impatient. So, I’m waiting…waiting…waiting.


A person is full of sorrow
the way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, “Hand me the sack,”
but we get the weight.
Heavier if left out in the rain.
To think that the stones or sand are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
being careful between the trees to leave extra room.
The mule is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
and leave behind the heavy dowry?
To let the thick ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?


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Ripeness is
what falls away with ease.
Not only the heavy apple,
the pear,
but also the dried brown strands
of autumn iris from their core.

To let your body
love this world
that gave itself to your care
in all of its ripeness,
with ease,
and will take itself from you
in equal ripeness and ease,
is also harvest.

And however sharply
you are tested —
this sorrow, that great love —
it too will leave on that clean knife.


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The heart’s reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.


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