188. Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining Into the World: Jane Hirschfield

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.

a book of essays, but you can find her poetry books here, too.

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.

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.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling,
that you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.



One thought on “188. Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining Into the World: Jane Hirschfield

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  1. Wonderful poem, but had a little trouble with the knife until I realized that what we have and what is given to us must be sacrificed, and that we may expect these gifts to be eternal, but we know that like life itself, the present moment is all the eternity we have.

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