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Olives adrift in the altering brine-bath

August 22, 2006

This morning as I continue my work with the cross-cultural, universal shapes – I come across this poem – and this poet – and I feel the olive pit in my mouth – and taste the salt and bitter and run the pit around – feeling the bits of olive flesh that cling to the pit – but that in my impatience I spit out as I reach for another olive that will also not give up its secrets easily.

Poem Holding Its Heart In One Fist

Each pebble in this world keeps
its own counsel.

Certain words–these, for instance–
may be keeping a pronoun hidden.
Perhaps the lover’s you
or the solipsist’s I.
Perhaps the philosopher’s willowy it.

The concealment plainly delights.

Even a desk will gather
its clutch of secret, half-crumpled papers,
eased slowly, over years,
behind the backs of drawers.

Olives adrift in the altering brine-bath
etch onto their innermost pits
a few furrowed salts that will never be found by the tongue.

Yet even with so much withheld,
so much unspoken,
potatoes are cooked with butter and parsley,
and buttons affixed to their sweater.
Invited guests arrive, then dutifully leave.

And this poem, afterward, washes its breasts
with soap and trembling hands, disguising nothing.

Jane Hirshfield

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