I am looking out my window, trying to understand the presence of rain on a hot April afternoon. I had a list of things to do in my head: answer letters, book a flight, read a book, get some work done. Try to end the week productive. Be responsible. Connect with the world. Make good choices. I’m not all the way there, but I did okay. I think.

It’s the small mercies we give ourselves, yes? Setting goals and meeting them—that’s hard work, sure. But forgiving yourself for failing, and failing again—that’s phenomenal.

Awhile back, R. shared with me two prayers. I was quite sure they’ll be ruined when spoken by me. But R., well—he knows me. He gave me one for the sunrise: “I am not afraid to die today.” And another for the sunset: “I am glad to be alive.

Here’s another.

Jane Hirshfield

It is the work of feeling
to undo expectation.

A black-faced sheep
looks back at you as you pass
and your heart is startled
as if by the shadow
of someone once loved.

Neither comforted by this
nor made lonely.

Only remembering
that a self in exile is still a self,
as a bell unstruck for years
is still a bell.

I am leaving in awhile. I know it’s the right thing to do. I need to get away from the city, from all of this.

When I planned this trip, it was just out of a whim. And now, six months later, it’s something I badly need.

Here now, T., is something to think about as you go on the road: maybe you can still protect yourself. Maybe all is not lost as you bitterly believed these past few weeks.

Maybe somewhere in your deepest self there is still that hand cupped around your heart.

Meeting the Light Completely
Jane Hirshfield

Even the long-beloved
was once
an unrecognized stranger.

Just so,
the chipped lip
of a blue-glazed cup,
blown field
of a yellow curtain,
might also,
flooding and falling,
ruin your heart.

A table painted with roses.
An empty clothesline.

Each time,
the found world surprises—
that is its nature.

And then
what is said by all lovers:
“What fools we were, not to have seen.”

I think I embarrassed myself last night. Oh, T. Why do you have to open your mouth?

The Promise
Jane Hirshfield

Stay, I said
to the cut flowers.
They bowed
their heads lower.

Stay, I said to the spider,
who fled.

Stay, leaf.
It reddened,
embarrassed for me and itself.

Stay, I said to my body.
It sat as a dog does,
obedient for a moment,
soon starting to tremble.

Stay, to the earth
of riverine valley meadows,
of fossiled escarpments,
of limestone and sandstone.
It looked back
with a changing expression, in silence.

Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered,

Today my parents are celebrating their twenty-ninth year of marriage. I look at them and can’t believe they’re still fooling themselves. My father’s fingers, devoid of a ring. My mother’s gaze, unfeeling.

Not Yet
Jane Hirshfield

Morning of buttered toast;
of coffee, sweetened, with milk.

Out of the window,
snow-spruces step from their cobwebs.
Flurry of chickadees, feeding then gone.
A single cardinal stipples an empty branch –
one maple leaf lifted back.

I turn my blessings like photographs into the light;
over my shoulder the god of Not-Yet looks on:

Not-yet-dead, not-yet-lost, not-yet-taken.
Not-yet-shattered, not-yet-sectioned,

Ample litany, sparing nothing I hate or love,
not-yet-silenced, not-yet-fractured, not-yet-


I move my ear a little closer to that humming figure,
I ask him only to stay.

Last Friday was one of those rare evenings that I find myself out with friends (being introvert I always have too many excuses — it’s too far, it’s too late, I’m busy, I’m sick, I’m depressed, etc.). I attended J’s first gallery exhibit. I felt bad for missing the opening night, but also relieved since I didn’t want to be making small talk with people I seem to have outgrown over the years. I’m bad at gatherings, because I don’t always know what to say. I could let people go on and talk about themselves, but that also means there’s going to be a pause where they ask me how I was, you know, just to be polite — and instead of deflecting the question, I instantly blabber on about the most inane things. I am awkward and irrelevant, and I hate it, and inside my head I am jumping up and down, screaming at myself to shut up but there seems to be a disconnect between my brain and my body parts. So, anyway — back to J’s exhibit, which was fantastic. A few Christmases ago I printed some of her photos and put them in makeshift frames and gave them as a gift. I have always known I’d see her works on a wall someday, and now it has arrived, and wow, it only took a few years, see. I’m so proud of her and wholeheartedly believe that she was born to do this.

That evening out made me feel a lot better. Friends always make things better. And poetry, of course.

The Falling
Jane Hirshfield

You turn towards meteor showers in August,
wishing yourself like that:
bright and burning wholly out.
When feeling finally comes it is
that falling, matter breaking away
from air, the sound
of crickets moving through the grass like fire—
and the strangely twisted metal
in the field that a child finds:
residue, crown.
Then there’s the story of the Chinese sage,
in anger and despair, who cut his body away in pieces,
flung them into the lake.
Each one, becoming finned and whole, swims off.

Lying in bed. Thinking and not thinking.

Three Times My Life Has Opened
Jane Hirshfield

Three times my life has opened.
Once, into darkness and rain.
Once, into what the body carries at all times within it and
starts to remember each time it enters the act of love.
Once, into the fire that holds all.
These three were not different.
You will recognize what I am saying or you will not.
But outside my window all day a maple has stepped
from her leaves like a woman in love with winter, dropping
the colored silks.
Neither are we different in what we know.
There is a door. It opens. Then it is closed. But a slip of
light stays, like a scrap of unreadable paper left on the floor,
or the one red leaf the snow releases in March.

Beginning again. Hello, August.

Da Capo
Jane Hirshfield

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.