Excerpt: 'After'

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After

by Jane Hirshfield

Paperback, 112 pages

List Price: $14.95

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To Wake at 3:00

To wake at 3:00
and not want to go back to sleep
is different
from waking and wanting
not to go back to sleep.
Thoughts
come to the mind,
predictable almost as breath.
The day's small errors and failures.
wrong words that were said,
right ones that were not.

Outside the window
a truck, with yellow lights
running the length of its body
and R&L Cargo lettered large down its side,
diesels the street inexplicably backward.

Making its own deliveries,
equally exhausted, from some great distance.

This Much Is Promised

Anna Kimienska, when you prayed
for what you were sure would be granted, you prayed for this:
a life of much suffering.

Reading your words, why do the heart's scales shift?

It is not the gladness of chickens, content to enter the night-coop.

Rather the shocked happiness
of the child who wakes one morning alone, knowing herself abandoned,
and makes breakfast, dresses neatly, sets out for school.
Learns to forge notes from home.

It goes on this way for weeks.

And though they will take her back,
find in another city a lost great-aunt or older cousin,
she does not forget.

Let others imagine those hours as frightened, as lonely.
Asked, she says nothing.

That child's silence, Anna Kamienska, calm as unmined iron,
I offer you here, next to your own.
I set it beside your trapped bumblebee, your untranslatable window.

After Long Silence

Politeness fades,

A small anchovy gleam
leaving the upturned pot in the dish rack
after the moon has wandered out of the window.

One of the late freedoms, there in the dark.
The leftover soup put away as well.

Distinctions matter. Whether a goat's
quiet face should be called noble
or indifferent. The difference between a right rigor and pride.

The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.

Yet words are not the end of though, they are where it begins.

From After by Jane Hirshfield. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers.

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