Home > Poetry > Metempsychosis
Published: Sun Oct 15 2000
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California

Some stories last many centuries,
others only a moment.
All alter over that lifetime like beach-glass,
grow distant and more beautiful with salt.

Yet even today, to look at a tree
and ask the story Who are you? is to be transformed.

There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror.

Then the bees of self pour from the hive-door,
ravenous to enter the sweetness of flowering nettles and thistle.

Next comes the ringing a stone or violin or empty bucket
gives off—
the immeasurable’s continuous singing,
before it goes back into story and feeling.

In Borneo, there are palm trees that walk on their high roots.
Slowly, with effort, they lift one leg then another.

I would like to join that stilted transmigration,
to feel my own skin vertical as theirs:
an ant-road, a highway for beetles.

I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart.
To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch,
and then keep walking, unimaginably further.

See what's inside AGNI 52

Jane Hirshfield is a member of the core faculty of the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars and the author of The Lives of the Heart, poems, and Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, essays, both from HarperCollins in 1997. Other recent work of hers appears in The American Poetry Review, Slate, The Atlantic, and The Yale Review. Her fifth collection of poems, Given Sugar, Given Salt, will appear from HarperCollins in 2001. (updated 2000)

Read “Zen and the Art of Poetry: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield” by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler in AGNI Online.

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