The Best Intentions: Your Thoughts?

Below is a beautiful and poignant poem from Jane Hirschfield about the very human tendency, even longing one might say, to ensure that what we love will never leave us. When you read the poem you’ll see that the natural world–flowers, rivers–even one’s own body, quietly refuses to agree to the human need for permanency. It is only other people who say, “Yes,” to the plea to “stay always,” and the rest of the poem has already made it clear that such a promise is just a wish, a hope, and ultimately impossible.

Like all truly good poems, this one tells the truth. Though I also find myself asking about that very human tendency to say, “Yes, I will be here always,” even when we know it isn’t really true. Because my sense is that sometimes, even though I don’t know how, it is true, or at least, it’s worth saying for the very real comfort that it offers. Yes, in the end we are always alone. No, we can’t make life stand still. But, we can very gratefully accept the imperfect, life-giving, and completely necessary gifts that other limited human beings offer us.  And we can believe in their infinite goodness. Perhaps we actually have no other alternatives.

What do you think?

The Promise

Stay, I said
to the cut flowers.
They bowed
their heads lower.
Stay, I said to the spider,
who fled.
Stay, leaf.
It reddened,
embarrassed for me and itself.
Stay, I said to my body.
It sat as a dog does,
obedient for a moment,
soon starting to tremble.
Stay, to the earth
of riverine valley meadows,
of fossiled escarpments,
of limestone and sandstone.
It looked back
with a changing expression, in silence.
Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered,
by Jane Hirschfield,  Come, Thief, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Daffodil shoots

2 thoughts on “The Best Intentions: Your Thoughts?

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: