Day two, commemorating the second minute of the last moments of George Floyd’s life:
Let Them Not Say
by Jane Hirshfield
Let them not say: we did not see it.
Let them not say: we did not hear it.
Let them not say: they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.
Let them not say: it was not spoken, not written.
we witnessed with voices and hands.
Let them not say: they did nothing.
We did not-enough.
Let them say, as they must say something:
A kerosene beauty.
Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.
Instead of we came, we saw, we conquered, poet Jane Hirshfield posits a different course: we saw, we heard, we tasted, we witnessed, and we did not-enough. Admitting failure instead of bragging about conquest. That’s the way forward.
Today at the square the poem I left yesterday had been removed. And it rained last night so today’s poem is probably gone as well. But I hope at least some of the people in the park wondered what I was doing and read the poems after I left.
A brief biography of Hirshfield from an earlier post:
Jane Hirshfield was born in 1953 in New York City. After graduating from the first Princeton class to include women, she moved to San Francisco to study Zen Buddhism for eight years. She’s published eight books of poetry and, as a translator of Japanese poetry, helped popularize tanka in the United States. She’s won numerous awards and taught at many universities including Stanford, Duke and Univerisity of Virginia.