Are you really? Underneath the snows of winter, do you blossom on and on? Do the pocket gophers crave you, tunneling beneath that blanket, pray to enter your secret chambers, rest inside your open gates?
I see your flowering, fruiting clusters, hanging on into October, leaning into the open path, making way, ushering whatever is holy into the presence of things that stay.
I like the way that shrubs and flowers lean against my classroom windows as if wanting to enroll. What would the azalea say when asked about the Forest of Arden? And would the red, red rose respond to my mistress' eyes as something, after all, like the sun? What's not to like in these my vernal, budding pupils— so firmly rooted in this soil, so curiously intertwined? My vegetable love should grow with each new bell of earnest fragrance, fair and passing fair, each one. As Eve once more eats of that fruit, I hear their universal groan.
A friend of theirs had been festering like an old sandwich, rotting a little before disposal. They had to come, but it got to where they held their breath before they stepped inside the room. The wife remembered how anything with mayonnaise had to be refrigerated.
Even a sack lunch in an office was suspect if stored under the desk for a morning: egg salad was the worst. The husband recalled a tiny door in the stone wall of an English church, stage right from the modest altar—a place for lepers to take communion. Only part
of a soul could pass, and precious little of the smell. The wife and husband talked with their old friend like this, backing off from his suppurations, unwilling to think, This is our body, unwilling to think, Dust to dust, slipping their elements of decay into the outer cold and darkness.
Jane Hirshfield has made her home in northern California for almost 30 years--plenty of time for a redwood tree to reach for her open window. I like this short poem for the very calmness attributed to the tree itself--and for the wisdom within that calm. The poem has the quality of parable, yet it oddly inverts and recombines familiar parables that we know.