Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If the Rise of the Fish (Jane Hirshfield)

If the Rise of the Fish

If for a moment
the leaves fell upward,
if it seemed a small flock
of brown-orange birds
circled over the trees,
if they circled then scattered each in
its own direction for the lost seed
they had spotted in tall, gold-checkered grass.
If the bloom of flies on the window
in morning sun, if their singing insistence
on grief and desire. If the fish.
If the rise of the fish.
If the blue morning held in the glass of the window,
if my fingers, my palms. If my thighs.
If your hands, if my thighs.
If the seeds, among all the lost gold of the grass.
If your hands on my thighs, if your tongue.
If the leaves. If the singing fell upward. If grief.
For a moment if singing and grief.
If the blue of the body fell upward, out of our hands.
If the morning held it like leaves.
 

Writing about Szymborska yesterday reminded me of this poem, another one I discovered during my formative poetry years. There's something compelling about the fragmentary nature of it, like it's tentatively reaching out for something but keeps drawing its hands back. Reaching out for the perfect phrase, trying one, then abandoning it and trying another. Trying phrases on like clothes.

I also like the mixture of the body images, which are sort of straightforwardly sensual, with the more metaphorical images. I feel like these could have ended up muddled together, but instead they feel... crisp? It's more that the two things are side by side, and the connection between them is drawn by proximity, rather than trying to make an explicit link between them.

And I like the imagery of reversal, the recognition that to undo a loss would be to press rewind on the world, to make leaves fall upwards. There's something about entropy in this, I think - the fundamental thing we know about how the universe functions is that we can only go forward, not back. When we grieve, we are in some ways grieving not just an individual loss, but the fact that to exist is to experience loss, that we cannot live and still escape grief.

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