a single, transparent question...

Jane Hirshfield

A Hand

A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.

Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat’s yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.

Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin’s smoothness,
not ink.

The maple’s green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.

Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.


Hirshfield is such an amazing writer. I really enjoy how this poem lulls me in, makes me not notice anything out of the ordinary until about stanza three when the floor opens and I never stop falling.


Suzanne said...

One of my favorites.

Miguel Murphy said...

Makes me think of this one by Beckian Fritz Goldberg (in her book LIE AWAKE LAKE)--different in style in and tone, but beautiful:

Hand and Cradle

When the hand begins to fly
it's awkward
and it cannot lift from
its earth, the body:
It can't be alone

and so like a shadow
is always depending.

At night, tucking up
the thumb in a fist beneath
th pillow,
half-mother, half-father

or sometimes leaving open
its emptiness like a cradle.
Next thing,

spring is crying out,
the nervous wet light. . .
and what is touch then but
the constant
tight chain that jerks us back,

that won't allow
the hand to leave the body completely
for another, but keeps it
always for its own end

and to itself like a dumb soul, so
if there is a heaven it's a heaven
only of returning--

the winged dark habit of the hand
whose song is nothing whose wings
are cups and latches.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks, Suzanne, for the read. One of my favorites as well.

And Miguel, I appreciate your read and thanks for the Goldberb piece. Good connection.

Paula said...

She is amazing indeed. I have discovered her onlu recently and each poem is a new discovery.

KATE EVANS said...

One time I was having dinner in Santa Cruz with Alan Cheuse, whom I'd met at a writers workshop, and Jane Hirschfield came into the restaurant and came up to our table and gave Alan a big hug, and I got a chance to meet her. She's as beautiful as her poetry.

Christine said...

I love this poem. I read it before about a year ago and loved it. Thanks for posting it.

michi said...

thanks for sharing this, sam.