where words could not reach...

Jane Hirshfield

The Envoy

One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don't know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something -- terror? happiness? grief? --
entered and then left my body.

No knowing how it came in.
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.


A perfect poem. The closing strophes are among my favorite reads.

1 comment:

LKD said...

Thank for posting this poem.

I remember the first time I read it, I felt as though I was reading a prayer.

Or, a koan.

Even now, rereading it, I feel as though I've found a stone on the beach that everyone else walked right past that fits perfectly in my hand when I pick it up and even though it's only a stone, it's everything.

I like this poem because I walk away questioning, questioning.