Engraving: World-Tree with an Empty Beehive
on One Branch

      by Jane Hirshfield

A too beautiful view rejects the mind.
It is like a person with a garrulous mouth but no ears.

When Bashō finished his months of walking,
he took off his used-up sandals,
let them fall.

One turned into the scent of withered chrysanthemum,
the other walked out of the story.

It’s only after you notice an ache
that you know it must always have been there.
As an actor is there, before he steps in from the wing.

Another of Bashō’s haiku:
a long-weathered skull, through whose eyes grow tall, blowing grasses.

They look now into a photograph,
a scraped field in France, September 1916:
men bending, smoking, gleaning the harrowed rucksacks for letters.

War, walking, chrysanthemum, sandal, wheat field, bee smoke of camera lens, war.

They’re in the past, yet we just keep traveling toward them, then away,
carrying with us the remnant, salvageable,

refugee honey.


From Ledger. New York: Knopf, 2020. page 103. Originally published in T: The New York Times StyleMagazine, 24 May 2016 (listen to the author read this poem at this link).