One Great Things About “The Weighing”

Let me begin in honesty. Right now the world feels unbearable. Too much anger and too much death. Too much pettiness in the face of death. In times of inhumanity there are those who go out of their way to show their fangs. All of it glares like a lighthouse pointed at my face. I find it difficult to look, difficult to want anything other than to hold my family tight to my chest.

Poetry, like a form of faith, requires us to leap and believe. Lately, however, every prayer I’ve heard feels hollowed, not hallowed. Despite this, I return to Jane Hirshfield’s poem “The Weighing.” I repeat her lines as if something larger than us listens.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

Is this wisdom or wishful thinking? Every line of the poem, depending on when I read it, tips one way or the other. It is remarkable in its balance, beautiful in its simple descriptions.

The heart’s reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

Some of us are elands. Some lions. Often we switch roles. Without question we are all drought-starved. I come back to Hirshfield’s poem as a reminder to see every heart clearly, to find the delicacy and uniqueness of every fang bared. Even as I question poetry’s ability to change anything, I come back to this poem.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

Friends, I hope this poem finds you. And when the world comes and asks for everything you have, may this poem give you more.

Yours in words,


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