Jane Hirshfield

The Envoy

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.

GIVEN SUGAR, GIVEN SALT (HarperCollins, 2001)