It Was Like This: You Were Happy

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent — what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness —
between you, there is nothing to forgive —
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is now a thing only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

Jane Hirshfield

22 thoughts on “It Was Like This: You Were Happy

  1. Maggie, have you ever read this one? It’s been my favorite since high school. The last three stanzas are stamped onto my DNA. I think of them often.

    by Jane Hirshfield

    One ran,
    her nose to the ground,
    a rusty shadow
    neither hunting nor playing.

    One stood; sat; lay down; stood again.

    One never moved,
    except to turn her head a little as we walked.

    Finally we drew too close,
    and they vanished.
    The woods took them back as if they had never been.

    I wish I had thought to put my face to the grass.

    We kept on walking,
    speaking as strangers do when becoming friends.

    There is more and more I tell no one,
    strangers nor loves.
    This slips into the heart
    without hurry, as if it had never been.

    And yet, among the trees, something has changed.

    Something looks back from the trees,
    and knows me for who I am.


  2. This seems to be a poem that stays with people. I sent it to a friend, who replied that she remembered reading it in the New Yorker in 2003.



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