1 Dec
Posted in: Poems
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Always There Is Desire


(And why this poem, today? I don’t know. Best then to stay with the question.)

by Jane Hirshfield

n.: 1. a song to quiet children or to lull them to sleep; a cradlesong. 2. music for this. 3. good night or good-by; a farewell

Always there is desire,
only the shape
of what is desired shifts,
each love giving way to another,
from the first sound
of heartbeat inconceivably there,
and on

into the face that rises like a moon
beyond the world’s edge;
into the milk that teaches

earliest meaning, hunger;
into the tumbling of breast, of belly heat,
of hands, that encourage the body
to meaning of its own;
into the close-tucked blankets, nascent trust
that existence will hold through the night;
into the dangled colors, first temptation,
that come and go;
into that song that wanders beyond knowing
out of lips;
into the climbing bafflement of change;
into the first power,
to call forth;
into the second power,
to move;
into the third power,
into the loneliness of self.

And now, desire fully mounted,
the branch full-laden with flower,
white hands of strangers start to summon
an awkward, ground-risen heat,
knowledge takes root in the body daily more sure,
it cries out and cries out again in startled awe–

Until, when the whole music is breaking
full-throated into the ears,
the next desire begins to whisper
into the stateliness of bones, a pull,
into the steadiness of blood, a weight,

and flavors of early apples appear on the tongue,
feet come to travel the ground more slowly again,
the map of the face grows detailed, a country known,

and the new love comes,
if the heart
will open enough, will let enough go to make room:

love of the structure of things,
bare branches of trees;
love of the overly large, the poorly made,
the somehow wrong;
love of the golden net,
the promises and guile of words;
love of the strength
that is passing from the legs;
love of the colors
daily leaving the eyes;
love of the delicacy
that abandons the wrists;
love of all powers
that diminish out of the body,
calling farewell
to the ears that forget to listen,
to the nerve-ends fraying with use,
to the breathing that retrenches into itself,
to the beautiful skin grown tired of dividing the earth
into ours, not ours,
as we tire too, of holding separate,

and love of self that was once so clear
grows suddenly simple, widens,
as a mother’s hand smoothing a sheet,
as water that broadens and flattens,
taking the shape of the darkened, still-reflecting

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