poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 4, 2016.
About this Poem 

“There are times almost impossible to navigate and silencing, when everything has come into question. The doubt behind this poem was, in the living of it, something close to despair—at my own life; at the life of the world held in any day’s news. Yet to find within the times of ash anything that might be made word-malleable, anything susceptible to imaginative leap and some sense, even, of the comic—that in itself is antidote and through-passage. By the time the poem was half-written, the window had been cracked open an inch; once that happens, some breathable air can’t help but rush in.”
Jane Hirshfield

My Doubt

I wake, doubt, beside you,
like a curtain half-open.

I dress doubting,
like a cup 
undecided if it has been dropped.

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.

I go to sleep doubting myself,
as a herd of goats
sleep in a suddenly gone-quiet truck.

I dream you, doubt,
nightly—
for what is the meaning of dreaming
if not that all we are while inside it
is transient, amorphous, in question?

Left hand and right hand,
doubt, you are in me,
throwing a basketball, guiding my knife and my fork.
Left knee and right knee,
we run for a bus,
for a meeting that surely will end before we arrive.

I would like
to grow content in you, doubt,
as a double-hung window
settles obedient into its hidden pulleys and ropes.

I doubt I can do so:
your own counterweight governs my nights and my days.

As the knob of hung lead holds steady
the open mouth of a window,
you hold me,
my kneeling before you resistant, stubborn,
offering these furious praises
I can’t help but doubt you will ever be able to hear.

Copyright © 2016 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight collections of poetry, includingThe Beauty: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), which was long listed for the National Book Award. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.

by this poet

poem

A librarian in Calcutta and an entomologist in Prague
sign their moon-faced illicit emails,
“ton entanglée.”

No one can explain it.
The strange charm between border collie and sheep,
leaf and wind, the two distant electrons.

There is, too, the matter of a horse race.

2
poem
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers
poem

In nature, molecules are chiral—they turn in one direction or the other. Naturally then, someone wondered: might sugar, built to mirror itself, be sweet, but pass through the body unnoticed? A dieters’ gold mine. I don’t know why the experiment failed, or how. I think of the loneliness of that man-made substance,

2