The Beauty

The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield

Book: The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Hirshfield
A C OMMON C OLD
    A common cold, we say—
    common, though it has encircled the globe
        seven times now handed traveler to traveler
        though it has seen the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an
        seen Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto in Monterchi
        seen the emptied synagogues of Krasnogruda
        seen the since-burned souk of Aleppo
    A common cold, we say—
    common, though it is infinite and surely immortal
        common because it will almost never kill us
        and because it is shared among any who agree to or do not agree to
        and because it is unaristocratic
                   reducing to redness both profiled and front-viewed noses
                   reducing to coughing the once-articulate larynx
                   reducing to unhappy sleepless turning the pillows of down,
                          of wool, of straw, of foam, of kapok
    A common cold, we say—
    common because it is cloudy and changing and dulling
        because there are summer colds, winter colds, fall colds,
                   colds of the spring
        because these are always called colds, however they differ
                   beginning sore-throated
                   beginning sniffling
                   beginning a little tired or under the weather
                   beginning with one single innocuous untitled sneeze
        because it is bane of usually eight days’ duration
                   and two or three boxes of tissues at most
    The common cold, we say—
    and wonder, when did it join us
        when did it saunter into the Darwinian corridors of the human
        do manatees catch them do parrots I do not think so
        and who named it first, first described it, Imhotep, Asclepius, Zhongjing
        and did they wonder, is it happy sharing our lives
                   as generously as inexhaustibly as it shares its own
                   virus dividing and changing while Piero’s girl gazes still downward
                   five centuries still waiting still pondering still undivided
    while in front of her someone hunts through her opening pockets for tissues for more than one reason at once

T HIS M ORNING , I W ANTED F OUR L EGS
    Nothing on two legs weighs much,
    or can.
    An elephant, a donkey, even a cookstove—
    those legs, a person could stand on.
    Two legs pitch you forward.
    Two legs tire.
    They look for another two legs to be with,
    to move one set forward to music
    while letting the other move back.
    They want to carve into a tree trunk:
    2gether 4ever.
    Nothing on two legs can bark,
    can whinny or chuff.
    Tonight, though, everything’s different.
    Tonight I want wheels.

O NCE , I
    Once, I
    was seven Spanish bullocks in a high meadow,
    sleepy and nameless.
    As-ifness strange to myself, but complete.
    Light on the neck-nape
    of time
    as two wings of one starling,
    or lovers so happy
    neither needs think of the other.

I N D AYLIGHT , I T URNED ON THE L IGHTS
    In daylight, I turned on the lights,
    in darkness, I pulled closed the curtains.
    And the god of More,
    whom nothing surprises, softly agreed—
    each day, year after year,
    the dead were dead one day more completely.
    In the places where morels were found,
    I looked for morels.
    In the houses where love was found,
    I looked for love.
    If she is vanished, what then was different?
    If he is alive, what now is changed?
    The pot offers the metal closest to fire for burning.
    The water leaves.

H OW R ARELY I H AVE S TOPPED TO T HANK THE S TEADY E FFORT
    A person speaking
    pauses, lets in
    a little silence-portion with the words.
    It is like an hour.
    Any hour. This one.
    Something happens, much does not.
    Or as always, everything happens:
    the standing walls keep
    standing with their whole attention.
    A noisy crow call lowers and lifts its branch,
    the

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