A poem by Jane Hirshfield

This poem, which I found on the site Women’s Voices for Change, seems to perfectly encapsulate this moment. Jane’s new book, Ledger, from Knopf,  just came out. It’s worth buying a copy from your local book store.  You won’t regret it.

Today, When I Could Do Nothing

Today, when I could do nothing,
I saved an ant.

It must have come in with the morning paper,
still being delivered
to those who shelter in place.

A morning paper is still an essential service.

I am not an essential service.

I have coffee and books,
time,
a garden,
silence enough to fill cisterns.

It must have first walked
the morning paper, as if loosened ink
taking the shape of an ant.

Then across the laptop computer—warm—
then onto the back of a cushion.

Small black ant, alone,
crossing a navy cushion,
moving steadily because that is what it could do.

Set outside in the sun,
it could not have found again its nest.
What then did I save?

It did not move as if it was frightened,
even while walking my hand,
which moved it through swiftness and air.

Ant, alone, without companions,
whose ant-heart I could not fathom—
how is your life, I wanted to ask.

I lifted it, took it outside.

This first day when I could do nothing,
contribute nothing
beyond staying distant from my own kind,
I did this.

Jane Hirshfield

First published in the San Francisco Chronicle

Monday poem

I heard Jane Hirshfield read this poem at a benefit for the beautiful Columbia Gorge.  I kept thinking of it every time I cooked something with carrots or onions, which is pretty often. So I asked and she graciously sent me a copy

As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us

As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting.

Remain this many Siberian tigers,
that many African elephants. Three hundred red-legged egrets.
We scrape from the world its tilt and meander of wonder
as if eating the last burned onions and carrots from a cast iron pan.
Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.

Jane Hirshfield

You can heae her read at Dominican University on September 4, to support immigrant families.

The other wedding poem

I was at a wedding this weekend, and had to choose a poem to read. I chose Cantatrice, by Berryman, but this was in the running till the last day:

For What Binds Us

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. Continue reading “The other wedding poem”