Here, where the rivers dredge up
the very stone of Heaven, we name its colors—
muttonfat jade, kingfisher jade, jade of appleskin green.

And here, in the glittering
hues of the Flemish Masters, we sample their wine;
rest in their windows’ sun warmth,
cross with pleasure their scrubbed tile floors.
Everywhere the details leap like fish— bright shards
of water out of water, facet cut, swift moving
on the myriad bones.

Any woodthrush shows it— he sings,
not to fill the world, but because he is filled.

But the world does not fill with us,
it spills and spills, whirs with owl wings,
rises, sets, stuns us with planet rings, stars.
A carnival tent, a fluttering of banners.

O baker of yeast scented loaves,
sword dancer,
seamstress, weaver of shattering glass,
O whirler of winds, boat swallower,
germinant seed,
O seasons that sing in our ears in the shape of O—
we name your colors muttonfat, kingfisher, jade,
we name your colors anthracite, orca, growth tip of pine,
we name them arpeggio, pond,
we name them flickering helix within the cell, burning coal tunnel,
blossom of salt,
we name them roof flashing copper, frost scent at morning, smoke singe
of pearl,
from black flowering to light flowering we praise them,
from barest conception, the almost not thought of, to heaviest matter,
we praise them,
from glacier lit blue to the gold of iguana we praise them,
and praising, begin to see,
and seeing, begin to assemble the plain stones of earth.

Copyright 2001 by Jane Hirshfield from The Lives of the Heart, (NY HarperCollins, 1997) and used by kind permission of the author.