p. 64, “Infertility,” Edward Hirsch
We don’t know how to name
the long string of zeros
Stretching across winter,
the barren places,
The missing birthdates of the unborn.
We’d like to believe in their souls
drifting through space
Between the Crab and the Northern Cross,
Smoky and incandescent,
longing for incarnation.
We’d like to believe in their spirits descending,
But month after month, year after year,
We have laid ourselves down
and raised ourselves up
And not one has ever entered our bodies.
We’d like to believe that we have planted
And tended seeds
in their honor,
But the spirits never appear
in darkness or light.
We don’t know whether to believe in their non-existence
Or their secrecy and evasiveness,
their invisible spite.
Maybe it’s past us, maybe it’s the shape of nothing
the cold slopes of the absolute.
This poem is haunting and mysterious. The lines stretch brokenly across the page almost like the image of those souls drifting “between the Crab and the Northern Cross” (such nice detail—so you see these long soul-clouds, slightly glowing, floating not just in an idea of “space” but between the constellations, actually in space). I find myself thinking about all kinds of “unanswered” prayers when I read this poem.
Starting Anywhere: A Reading Guide
6 months ago