When I too long have looked upon your face,
Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
And terrible beauty not to be endured,
I turn away reluctant from your light,
And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
From having looked too long upon the sun.
Then is my daily life a narrow room
In which a little while, uncertainly,
Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
Among familiar things grown strange to me
Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
Till I become accustomed to the dark.
Lydia Hirsch Feb 5
The cup of hot, darjeeling tea contains everything
I expect from life.

I drink the tea on the bus, watch
through the window
the imperfect beauty of the city.

Each day on that lonely street, an old Bosnian man
plays chess against strangers. His face
is the oldest face I remember seeing. Aged
by something other than time.

Two women walk together, hand-in-hand,
laughing loudly. The sun shines
on their soft faces. They get on the bus,
sit across from me near the front of the bus,
get yelled at for laughing too loudly.
I wonder what they find so funny.

The tea consoles me
when I encounter uncertainty.
When melancholic emptiness
overcomes me.

I watch people walking, talking, laughing,
visiting coffee shops & restaurants,
getting drunk & arguing, kissing.

Sometimes pleasure and adventure
aren’t enough. Dissatisfaction and melancholy
overcome me & I long for something
I know I will never attain.

God may be dead, but I sometimes fear
that he’s watching me. Watching
my aimless, amoral way of living, watching me
forget and deny him.
I used to fear oblivion
and long for eternity.
But lately I sometimes wish
to go under anesthetic.
A deeper unconsciousness than sleep,
a complete unconsciousness
where pain is impossible
and I am undisturbed
even if earth be fused with sea & sea with sky.

I used to long for eternity
and for God.
I looked for God
in most of the major religions.
I couldn’t find him.

I still long for a transcendence
I know I won’t attain.
Sometimes pleasure and adventure aren’t enough.
I don’t know if it’s God, but something vital is missing from me
even in my greatest moments.
  Dec 2017 Lydia Hirsch
mothers are interesting to think about.
here is a person that God
or the universe or whatever profound and unimaginable thing that our feeble human minds cannot comprehend
took and made into your growing space
her body now a thing to inhabit you-forming into something better
than she could ever hope for-
and giving you everything in the selfish way that love requires in every relationship
her breath
her blood
her being
separated and shared
until time and nature decides to spill you out into the world for all to see.
No wonder you cried when you were born
  Dec 2017 Lydia Hirsch
I think they understand squat
In your ear
The colossus is growing
Split at your feet like a ripe fruit
Concave flesh
Clock starts—flesh, bone
Nothing there

Mundane space between the knife and thumb
“What a thrill,” you tell to me, “My thumb instead of an onion.”
Thrill indeed
Your father instead of the world
Swallow black—whole oceans in your throat
Swimming back to Daddy

You did it again and I say it’s
Coming back again
Back again

Lilac nurse in a prom dress
Tinged in grey and Cambridge sweaters
Brushing the sun
Teddy makes you laugh eventually
Say you know what you want
He said you were the real thing
So learn

I can taste you alive
I’m underneath the floorboards
Blue tinged with your bandages
Christ takes His time to raise me back
The black dog
3 years
Still digging even when

You and I cross the sky and I cross my heart and I cross my legs oh my
Bit your pretty red heart in two
for sylvia.
  Dec 2017 Lydia Hirsch
lightweight flesh stretched over bones young enough to be
she says, “I’m not asking you to believe in me.
silver-haired daddy’s got it confused
i’m not persephone.”
talk can be dangerous and  tape it across my
“these things you need to do
i never asked you how.”
line me up in single file
with all your grievances
i can taste you still
below the waves
something tragic in your stars and charts and maps and
black dog coming back when you
open up
for the rest of the world to breathe
i think i can see
“I’m not asking you to believe in me.
silver-haired daddy’s got it confused
i’m not persephone.”
but if you need time
sometimes i think
if we take some time
i won’t mind
down the river your friend names
after me
i don’t hold onto the tales of your kind
line me up in single file
with all your grievances
i can taste you still
below the waves

calling for myself  in the corners of the world
i know she’s playing poker with the rest of the stragglers
pale kind
i know she’s playing poker with the rest
the rest
how many fates turn around in the other time
bag in the ulcer field
dreams that you’ll never find
you thought that you were the damned one
AGAIN AND AGAIN And again and again and

she says, “I’m not asking you to believe in me.
silver-haired daddy’s got it confused
i’m not persephone.”
talk can be dangerous and  tape it across my
“these things you need to do
i never asked you how.”

i know we’re falling and there’s no sign of getting through
in your heart i feel the west
and it’s dying too
for sacajawea.
Lydia Hirsch Apr 2017
I find myself wondering where we are going, and why.
Change has taken the leaves from the trees,
the song from the songbird, the soil from beneath
our feet.

Humanity, sanctified beast united in worship of its own debris,
where are you going? Do you know where you are going?
Do you know why? You are ruining the world for yourself
because you do not know how to change.

You are not like the leaves that turn orange and red
each November. You refuse to move, refuse to be shaken,
clutch tightly to the thinning stem that attaches you to
the trembling branch of the shaking tree.

The world is changing all around us while we stay still,
static, asleep in the shelter of our glory.
Glory-- a word for the worst of times.
A war word.

The word hangs over the flag-draped coffins of the growing
cemeteries. It promises that this will never end--
in the name of glory, we must be strong.
Humanity, when will you stop killing yourself?

Humanity, will you change?
Lydia Hirsch Mar 2017
“If I worship you from fear of Hell, then burn me in Hell. And if I worship you from hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship you for your own sake, do not withhold me from your eternal beauty” -- Rabi’a al-Basri, Sufi poet, mystic, and saint who lived from 717 to 801 AD

Sometimes I read you in the words of ancient poets,
in the verse of Rumi, Hafiz, and Rabi’a.
From their voices and gentle instruments came sacred music.
I can almost hear the song through the written words,
but I long to hear more,
to hear what is lost when music is translated into language.

Sometimes I see you in the endless sea.
The patterns and repetitions of daily life
become tiresome every now and then,
and I feel I cannot walk home in the afternoon,
that I must walk along the shore
until the sky is grey.
I touch the water
so replete with salt and life.
It pulls away from me
and then embraces me with towering waves.
I am comforted by its steady rise and fall.
I feel falsely that I know this ocean well,
though I have seen only the fraction of its immanence
appearing within the borders of my horizon.

Some among us will tell us to be afraid
of this world and the next,
to live opposed to life
and to imagine that prophets and saints
were neither human nor lovers of humanity.

Some among us will want us to be blind
to any light but our own,
will not want us to understand
that we are only many different lamps
illuminating the vast and open evening sky.

These people wear the costumes of teachers and guides,
but speak not to the soul
and instead to the knives one carries in one’s heart.
There is no time for music,
no freedom to search for what is true
and what is beautiful.

Do not be afraid,
neither of this world nor of any other that may be.
Do not be afraid,
but embrace the strangeness and complexity of the world
and search for or create beauty wherever you go.
Do not be afraid,
and remember that the prophets and the saints
were both human and lovers of humanity.
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