Jane Hirshfield

(New York / United States)

Rebus - Poem by Jane Hirshfield

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.

This rebus - slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life -
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.

The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.

How can I enter this question the clay has asked?

Comments about Rebus by Jane Hirshfield

  • Jayatissa K. Liyanage (8/27/2016 9:19:00 PM)

    A real life puzzle! Very inspiring and thought provoking poem indeed. Thanks for sharing.X (Report) Reply

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  • Amar Agarwala (8/27/2016 8:11:00 PM)

    Thank you for sharing a soul searching poem. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (8/27/2016 2:58:00 PM)

    Another extraordinary poem shared with us today! Those first two verses are especially extraordinary! I have read them over and over, savoring the way she uses words. 10 (Report) Reply

  • (8/27/2016 11:27:00 AM)

    A beautiful thought provoking song of life that is meaningful too. Thanks for sharing it here. (Report) Reply

  • (8/27/2016 3:07:00 AM)

    Enchanting - the clay forms choices yet it informs of the 'smells of bottoms'. (Report) Reply

  • Rahman Henry (8/27/2016 1:32:00 AM)

    `How can I enter this question the clay has asked? '..... wonderful poem in deed. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (8/27/2016 12:49:00 AM)

    Made out of clay to face the world! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 23, 2013

Poem Edited: Thursday, May 23, 2013

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