Little Altars Everywhere


In the dream the string had broken
and I was trying to
pick out its beads among all others.

The large coral beads,
the beads of turquoise and ivory—
these were not mine.
Carved and ridged with color, burnished, weighty—
my hands passed over them without regret or pause.

The tiny ones,
of glass,
almost invisible against the white cotton bedspread—
these were mine.

The hole in the center
scarcely discernible as different from the bead itself,
the bead around it
scarcely discernible as different from the bed or floor or air—

with trembling fingers
I lifted them
into the jar my other hand cupped closely to one breast.

Not precious, merely glass, almost invisible.
How terrified I was at the thought of missing even one.

While I live, I thought, they are mine to care for.

Then wakened heavy with what I recognized at once
as an entirely warranted grief,

frantic for something plain and clear
and almost without substance,
that I myself had scattered, that I myself must find.

– Jane Hirshfield, “Silk Cord”

Sunday Selections

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The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things. I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice: now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever
– Mary Oliver, “One or Two Things” (excerpt)