Rebus

by Jane Hirshfield


Original Language English

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?

-- from Given Sugar, Given Salt: Poems, by Jane Hirshfield

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Jane Hirshfield | Next Poem >>


View All Poems by Jane Hirshfield



Recommended Books: Jane Hirshfield

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Given Sugar, Given Salt: Poems The Lives of the Heart: Poems The October Palace: Poems Of Gravity & Angels
More Books >>





Rebus