Wednesday Poem

Like An Ant Carrying Her Bits of Earth and Sand

Like an ant carrying her bits of earth or sand
the poem carries its words.
Moving one, then another, into place.

Something in an ant is sure where these morsels belong,
but the ant could not explain this.
Something in a poem is certain where its words belong,
but the poet could not explain this.

All day the ant obeys an inexplicable order.
All day a poet obeys an incomprehensible demand.

The world changes or does not change by these labors;
the geode peeled open gives off its cold scent or does not.
But that is no concern of the ant’s, of the poem’s.

The work of existence devours its own unfolding.
What dissolves will dissolve—
you, reader, and I, and all our quick angers and longings.
The potato’s sugary hunger for growing larger.
The unblinking heat of the tiger.

No thimble of cloud or stone that will not vanish,
and still the rearrangements continue.

The ant’s work belongs to the ant.
The poem carries love and terror, or it carries nothing.

by Jane Hirshfield
Given Sugar Given Salt
Harper Collins, 2002