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,
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
pigeons, a sandwich
of rye bread, mustard, and cheese.
It is me and is not,
that makes the sandwich good.
It is not me then is,
a mystery neither of us
can fold, unfold, or consume.
Originally published in The Beauty (Knopf, 2015); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight collections of poetry, includingThe Beauty: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), which was long listed for the National Book Award. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.
Date Published: 2013-10-24
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-proteins