Like Two Negative Numbers Multiplied by Rain

By Jane Hirshfield b. 1953 Jane Hirshfield
Lie down, you are horizontal.
Stand up, you are not.

I wanted my fate to be human.

Like a perfume
that does not choose the direction it travels,
that cannot be straight or crooked, kept out or kept.

Yes, No, Or
—a day, a life, slips through them,
taking off the third skin,
taking off the fourth.

And the logic of shoes becomes at last simple,
an animal question, scuffing.

Old shoes, old roads—
the questions keep being new ones.
Like two negative numbers multiplied by rain
into oranges and olives.

Source: Poetry (September 2012).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2012
 Jane  Hirshfield

Biography

Award-winning poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield is the author of several collections of verse, including Come, Thief (2011), After (2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award, among others. Hirshfield has also translated the work of early women poets in collections such as The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.