More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable earth.
“Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt. © Harper Collins, 2002. (*Reprinted by permission. Note: the line breaks in the poem as printed above are correct. My appologies to all I may have led astray with the incorrect line breaks. And “Thanks!” to Jane Hirshfield for permission to use this poem.)
You can listen to Garrison Keiller read the poem at the February 24 archive of NPRs Writer’s Almanac, in honor of Jane Hirshfield’s birthday. Here is the direct link to the audio; the poem is at the end.
Thanks to friend and colleague David Markwardt for calling my attention to this poem.
Jane Hirshfield:” born in New York City (1953). When she was in first grade, she wrote, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” She went to Princeton, worked on a farm for a year, and then spent the next few years studying Buddhism at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in northern California. She didn’t write at all while she was there, almost eight years, but since then she has published many books of poetry, including Of Gravity & Angels (1988), Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), After: Poems (2006)”, and more.