“Things Seem Strong” by Jane Hirshfield

Things seem strong.
Houses, trees, trucks—a chair, even.
A table.

You don’t expect one to break.
No, it takes a hammer to break one,
a war, a saw, an earthquake.

Troy after Troy after Troy seemed strong
to those living around and in them.
Nine Troys were strong,
each trembling under the other.

When the ground floods
and the fire ants leave their strong city,
they link legs and form a raft, and float, and live,
and begin again elsewhere.

Strong, your life’s wish
to continue linking arms with life’s eye blink, life’s tear well,
life’s hammering of copper sheets and planing of Port Orford cedar,
life’s joke of the knock-knock.

Knock, knock. Who’s there?
I am.
I am who?

That first and last question.

Who once dressed in footed pajamas,
who once was smothered in kisses.
Who seemed so strong
I could not imagine your mouth would ever come to stop asking.


Published at The New Yorker, Sep. 5, 2016

One thought on ““Things Seem Strong” by Jane Hirshfield

  1. William A. Grimes

    Jane Hirshfield is brilliant and generous. She manages to weave a larger more general history with her (?) personal history. “Footed pajamas” is a perfect image, or so it seems to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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