The heart's reasons
even the hardest
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.
As the drought-starved
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.
From The October Palace (HarperCollins, 1994) by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright @1994 by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.
To such a request, the world is obliging.
In just the past week, a rotund porcupine,
who seemed equally startled by me.
The man who swallowed a tiny microphone
to record the sounds of his body,
not considering beforehand how he might remove it.
A cabbage and mustard sandwich on marbled bread.
How easily the large spiders were caught with a clear plastic cup
surprised even them.
I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.
Or why each time a new fossil, Earth-like planet, or war.
Or that no one kept being there when the doorknob had clearly.
What should not have been so surprising:
my error after error, recognized when appearing on the faces of others.
What did not surprise enough:
my daily expectation that anything would continue,
and then that so much did continue, when so much did not.
Small rivulets still flowing downhill when it wasn’t raining.
A sister’s birthday.
Also, the stubborn, courteous persistence.
That even today please means please,
good morning is still understood as good morning,
and that when I wake up,
the window’s distant mountain remains a mountain,
the borrowed city around me is still a city, and standing.
Its alleys and markets, offices of dentists,
drug store, liquor store, Chevron.
Its library that charges—a happy surprise—no fine for overdue books:
Borges, Baldwin, Szymborska, Morrison, Cavafy.
from Ledger (Knopf, 2020); first appeared in The New Yorker. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.