The Lives of the Heart

Are ligneous, muscular, chemical.
Wear birch-coloured feathers,
green tunnels of horse-tail reed.
Wear calcified spirals, Fibonaccian spheres.
Are edible; are glassy; are clay; blue schist.
Can be burnt as tallow, as coal,
can be skinned for garnets, for shoes.
Cast shadows or light;
shuffle; snort; cry out in passion.
Are salt, are bitter,
tear sweet grass with their teeth.
Step silently into the blue needle-fall at dawn.
Thrash in the net until hit.
Rise up as cities, as serpentine magma, as maples,
hiss lava-red into the sea.
Leave the strange kiss of their bodies
in Burgess Shale. Can be found, can be lost,
can be carried, broken, sung.
Lie dormant until they are opened by ice,
by drought. Go blind in the service of lace.
Are starving, are sated, indifferent, curious, mad.
Are stamped out in plastic, in tin.
Are stubborn, are careful, are slipshod,
are strung on the blue backs of flies
on the black backs of cows.
Wander the vacant whale-roads, the white thickets
heavy with slaughter.
Wander the fragrant carpets of alpine flowers.
No one is not held in the arms of the rest, to blossom.
No one is not given to ecstasy’s lions.
No one does not grieve.
Each of them opens and closes, closes and opens
the heavy gate – violent, serene, consenting, suffering it all.

Jane Hirshfield

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