Sunday, January 9, 2011

"To": An Assay


If drawn as a cartoon figure,
you would be leaning always forward, feet blurred
with the multiple lines that convey bothy momentum and hurry.
Your god is surely Hermes:
messenger, inventor,
who likes to watch the traveler passing the crossroads
in any direction.
Your nemesis? The calm existence of things as they are.
When I speak as here,
in the second person, you are quietly present.
You are present in presents as well, which are given to.
Being means and not end, you are mostly modest,
obedient as railroad track to what comes or does not.
Yet your work requires
both transience and transformation:
night changes to day, snow to rain, the shoulder of the living pig to meat.
When attached to verbs, you sometimes change them
to adjectives, adverbs, nouns,
a trick I imagine
would bring enormous pleasure,
were you capable of pleasure, You are not.
You live below the ground of humor, hubris, grievance, grief.
Whatever has been given you,
you carry, indifferent as a planet to your own fate.
Yet it is you,
polite retainer of time and place, who bring us to ours,
who do not leave the house of the body
from the moment of birth until your low-voiced murmur, "dust to dust."
And so we say, "today," "tomorrow."
But from yesterday, like us, you have vanished.
~ Jane Hirshfield
from After
art by Salvador Dali