In looking for a copy of Tomas Transtromer’s poem “Tracks” for my last post, I found this Hirschfield poem. I only read it because I had just come from a YouTube video of her reading “Tracks”, which I posted.
Small world, poetry.
I am posting this in January. In Vermont, it is cold and the days are short and it is long enough after winter break and far enough until February break that all of the kids seem to be chewing glass. Just an edge of mean in every “joke”. I tell them to circle up, and someone has to quip, “Why not square-up.” But with real anger in the words.
So here is a focus on the gifts we receive every day. At times like these, we often don’t appreciate them. What gifts have your students gotten lately? A good education? Access to the internet? A solid community?
Let us count our blessings.
EACH MOMENT A WHITE BULL STEPS SHINING INTO THE WORLD
by Jane Hirschfield
If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.
Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.
Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.
Treat it as you yourself
would be treated, brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.
And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant –
stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you’d come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.
did you enter the pasture
without yourself trembling,
that you came to love it, that was the gift.
Let the envious gods take back what they can.