My Proteins

April 2, 2019

They have discovered, they say,
the protein of itch —
natriuretic polypeptide b —
and that it travels its own distinct pathway
inside my spine.
As do pain, pleasure, and heat.

A body it seems is a highway,
a cloverleaf crossing
well built, well traversed.
Some of me going north, some going south.

Ninety percent of my cells, they have discovered,
are not my own person,
they are other beings inside me.

As ninety-six percent of my life is not my life.

Yet I, they say, am they —
my bacteria and yeasts,
my father and mother,
grandparents, lovers,
my drivers talking on cell phones,
my subways and bridges,
my thieves, my police
who chase my self night and day.

My proteins, apparently also me,
fold the shirts.

I find in this crowded metropolis
a quiet corner,
where I build of not-me Lego blocks
a bench,
pigeons, a sandwich
of rye bread, mustard, and cheese.

It is me and is not,
the hunger
that makes the sandwich good.

It is not me then is,
the sandwich —
a mystery neither of us
can fold, unfold, or consume.

Jane Hirshfield

Say anything. Free-writing, free-associating, and keeping a journal are all ways to move from silence into words…(‘Say anything’ is another version of William Stafford’s famous advice: ‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block; you need only lower your standards.’)

Jane Hirshfield
Reconnecting After a Silence
Poets & Writers Magazine January/February 2018

Stone and Knife

February 25, 2017

dancers

One angle blunts, another sharpens
Loss also: stone & knife
Some griefs augment the heart,
enlarge;
some stunt.
Scentless loosestrife,
rooms unwalked in,
these losses are small.

Others cannot be described at all.

Jane Hirshfield

Burlap Sack

May 18, 2016

covered

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?

Jane Hirshfield

My Proteins

August 18, 2015

pigeonsandbench

They have discovered, they say,
the protein of itch —
natriuretic polypeptide b —
and that it travels its own distinct pathway
inside my spine.
As do pain, pleasure, and heat.
A body it seems is a highway,
a cloverleaf crossing
well built, well traversed.
Some of me going north, some going south.
Ninety percent of my cells, they have discovered,
are not my own person,
they are other beings inside me.
As ninety-six percent of my life is not my life.
Yet I, they say, am they —
my bacteria and yeasts,
my father and mother,
grandparents, lovers,
my drivers talking on cell phones,
my subways and bridges,
my thieves, my police
who chase myself night and day.
My proteins, apparently also me,
fold the shirts.
I find in this crowded metropolis
a quiet corner,
where I build of not-me Lego blocks
a bench,
pigeons, a sandwich
of rye bread, mustard, and cheese.
It is me and is not,
the hunger
that makes the sandwich good.
It is not me then is,
the sandwich —
a mystery neither of us
can fold, unfold, or consume.

( Jane Hirshfield’s books of poetry include The Beauty: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015); Come, Thief (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011); After (HarperCollins, 2006); Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001); The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins, 1997); The October Palace (HarperCollins, 1994); Of Gravity & Angels (Wesleyan University Press, 1988); and Alaya (Quarterly Review of Literature Poetry Series, 1982). Her poetry on the surface appears simple, but it is not. She poses riddles of a metaphysical nature…“Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield’s poems clear a space for reflection and change” writes Rosanna Warren ).