For the Lobaria, Usnea, Witches Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen
Back then, what did I know?
The names of subway lines, busses.
How long it took to walk 20 blocks.
Uptown and downtown.
Not north, not south, not you.
When I saw you, later, seaweed reefed in the air,
you were grey-green, incomprehensible, old.
What you clung to, hung from: old.
Trees looking half-dead, stones.
Marriage of fungi and algae,
chemists of air,
changers of nitrogen-unusable into nitrogen-usable.
Like those nameless ones
who kept painting, shaping, engraving,
unseen, unread, unremembered.
Not caring if they were no good, if they were past it.
Rock wools, water fans, earth scale, mouse ears, dust,
Transformers unvalued, uncounted.
Cell by cell, word by word, making a world they could live in.
Originally published in Come,Thief (Knopf, 2011); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.