Friday, August 11, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jane Hirshfield

I recently watched this documentary about the Buddha, which features many speakers but I recognized the poet Jane Hirshfield immediately, because I had recently flagged one of her poems for this feature. Kismet, I guess, especially because this poem speaks to me quite loudly today. Hirshfield has received many accolades for her poetry and she's also an essayist, a translator, and a student of Zen Buddhism who spent three years in monastic practice. I love what she says here comparing writing poems to Buddhist practice, and I'd also highly recommend her poem "On the Fifth Day," which she read at the March for Science on April 22 of this year. But for this space, here's this one:

The Weighing

by Jane Hirshfield

The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka