The Envoy

By Jane Hirshfield b. 1953 Jane Hirshfield
One day in that room, a small rat.   
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his   
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don’t know how either came or left.   
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something—terror? happiness? grief?—
entered and then left my body.

Not knowing how it came in,   
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.   
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,   
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives   
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.

Jane Hirshfield, “The Envoy” from Given Sugar, Given Salt. Copyright © 2001 by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Given Sugar Given Salt (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2001)

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Poet Jane Hirshfield b. 1953

Subjects Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse