EACH MOMENT A WHITE BULL STEPS SHINING INTO THE WORLD
by Jane Hirshfield
If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.
Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.
Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.
Treat it as you yourself
would be treated,
brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.
And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant—
Stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you’d come to believe were yours,
did you enter the pasture
without yourself trembling,
That you came to love it, that was the gift.
Let the envious gods take back what they can.
(From her book, The Lives of The Heart)
I credit my friend, Eileen/ Peripeteia (her blog), for prompting this blog post. I truly love the poetry of Jane Hirshfield and when I saw her post, I was delighted with the gift of the poem above.
Recently, I have been through some much chaos and turmoil. But all of these things I have accepted as gifts, as blessings. There was potential loss in each of these events but we were spared. And that brings me to the core of this poem. It is about things I came to believe were mine. It is an illusion. There is nothing, really, that belongs to me. If anything, I belong to the ether, to the earth.
But there is a gift in all of these: that I came to love. Love has nothing to do with possession. It has everything to do with giving up, letting go, thriving in generosity. Everything to give, nothing to lose. I adore the ritual in the words of the poem: "Say the accustomed prayers/ oil the hooves well..." It is in gestures that something becomes precious, not the thing itself. It is the silence that accompanies the moment, it is the drawing of my hands together, the act of saying the words aloud.
The last line makes the poem so moving..."Let the envious gods take back what they can." When has anyone not thought this? Especially when a loved one lies sick in bed, hovering over a line that one cannot bear to behold. "God giveth, God taketh away." It is full of rage and yet it is also full of the love that cannot be taken away.
So, tears came to my eyes today. I have been given not just one gift but several. Let the envious gods take back what they can. There is no diminishing the light of love.