Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sheep's Cheese by Jane Hirshfield

In the cellar, sheep's milk cheeses
soak in cold brine.
Once a week, a man comes to turn them.
Sixty pounds lifted like child after child,
lain back and re-wrapped
in their cloths on the wooden shelves.
The shelves are nameless, without opinion or varnish.
The wheels are only sheep's milk, not ripening souls.
He sings no lullabye to them. But his arms know the weight.

I love the way this poem starts with something as mundane as cheese and elevates in degrees to the profound. First an analogy between a ball of of cheese in brine to a child. My initial reaction was to imagine a fetus curled up in amniotic fluid but Hirsfield probably had in mind a swaddled newborn being changed and tucked away for the night. Finally, the reference to wheels and "ripening souls" which seems to suggest a Tibetan prayer wheel, karma, birth and rebirth. That was an amazing train of thought !

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