Nothing Wants to Suffer
after Linda Hogan
Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff
being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.
The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust.
The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth
to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes,
made quickly, and without much suffering.
The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.
We know this, though we forget.
Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world
of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.
Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—
scattered so far beyond reach.
Copyright © 2021 by Danusha Laméris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This poem began with a line written by Linda Hogan in her marvelous book, Dwellings, from a passage about growing corn. How the corn is aware and has its own stories. I was sitting in a café when I read it, eating a salad and watching people walk by. Reading her words, I felt suddenly alert to tenderness, to how carefully and inextricably we’re bound to everything. And to how stories bind us. May we listen to the world and all it has to say.”