…his long neck folded

All winter
the blue heron
slept among the horses.
I do not know
the custom of herons,
do not know
if the solitary habit
is their way,
or if he listened for
some missing one—
not knowing even
that was what he did—
in the blowing
sounds in the dark,
I know that
hope is the hardest
love we carry.
He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.

— Jane Hirshfield, “Hope and Love” from “The Lives of the Heart: Poems


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. Heron. 6:03 am, August 22, 2021. 75° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 

Saturday Morning

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.

Doors are not equivocal
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood —

You are matter, as they are.
See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.

~ Jane Hirshfield, from “A Room” from “The Lives of the Heart: Poems

 


Painting, Poul Anker Bech (Danish, 1942-2009), “Sun Dreams”, 1973 via Huariqueje

Walking Mid Town. With Keats…

Early evening. Heat shimmers from the asphalt. I stand waiting for the Don’t Walk sign to turn…I’m three blocks from the entrance to Grand Central and my Metro North train ride home.  Hulking skyscrapers, mid-town Manhattan Gods, offer shade, a welcome cover to a day that needs to end. You are spent. 

And…as I stand waiting, here they come. Non consecutive lines from the Keats’ sonnet Bright Star

The moving waters at their priestlike task…
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell

And why Keats? Why this poem? Why these lines? Why now? What algorithm upstairs decides it’s time for this?  Here on 42nd Street, so far from the glacial waters of Home, so many galaxies from The Rockies, so many months from snow.  Yet, and somehow, and for some reason, it’s pulled up.

I feel the pillowy softness of snow in August, and the cool melt of crystals on my tongue. And I’m swept away, miles from the cacophony of horns, engines, tourists and the sweltering August heat.

The light turns. I walk. I cross the street and the smell of fried chicken fills my lungs…I inhale deeply…tantalizing. Keats’ grip on me vaporizes. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

Q: Several poems in this collection speak to a desire for silence—an even bigger appetite for it than the speaker originally had thought was needed. How much silence do you usually need to write, and how do you get it?

JH: I need more and more silence, it feels. Poems don’t leap into my mind when I’m distracted, turned outward, with other people, listening to music. It’s more for me as with going into a forest: if you sit quietly for a long time, the life around you emerges. As the world grows ever more clamorous, my hunger for silence steepens. I unplug the landline.

~ Jane Hirshfield, from Of Amplitude There Is No Scraping Bottom: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield (Tin House, March 15, 2016)


Notes:

 

Switchback: From Bliss and Back

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A vicious switchback,
the bliss of last Saturday Morning,
to a routine checkup with the Good Shepherd Vet,
to this.

I clench my jaw while he opens his.
The steroids, tiny pink buttons, are wrapped in lunch meat.
He swallows the care package whole, nose up, sniffing for more.
“Sit!”
He sits.
The medicine dissolves, his belly warms from the Buttons.
His glassy eyes look up drawing up Hirshfield’s Hope and Love:
“I know that hope is the hardest love we carry.” [Read more…]

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