by Jane Hirshfield
"If you wish to move your reader,"
Chekhov wrote, "you must write more coldly."
Herakleitos recommended, "A dry soul is best."
And so at the center of many great works
is found a preserving dispassion,
like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective,
or the tiny packets of desiccant enclosed
in a box of new shoes or seeds.
But still the vanishing point
is not the painting,
the silica is not the blossoming plant.
Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains.
To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?-
Scent of rocking distances,
smoke of blue trees out the window,
hampers of bread, pickled cabbage, boiled meat.
Scent of the knowable journey.
Neither a person entirely broken
nor one entirely whole can speak.
In sorrow, pretend to be fearless. In happiness, tremble.