Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vilnius by Jane Hirshfield


For a long time.
I keep the guidebooks out on the table.
In the morning, drinking coffee, I see the spines:
St: Petersburg, Vilnius, Vienna.
Choices pondered but not finally taken.
Behind them - sometimes behind thick fog - the mountain.
If you lived higher up on the mountain,
I find myself thinking, what you would see is
more of everything else, but not the mountain.

I love the line "Choices pondered but not finally taken" - it brings to mind the many choices I have pondered but never taken. This is quite a bit different from Robert Frost's regret in The Road Not Taken

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The last three lines of Hirsfield's Vilnius remind me of a favorite Tagore poem I wrote about in the context of Brian Patten's absolutely amazing A Blade of Grass. How true that you could see more of everything else but not the mountain itself; the whole world but not a dewdrop on a blade of grass. Sometimes it is just as well that choices were pondered but never made.

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