A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.

A hand is shaped for what it holds or makes.
Time takes what’s handed to it then – warm bread, a stone,
a child whose fingers touch the page to keep her place.

Beloved, grown old separately, your face
shows me the changes on my own.
I see the histories it holds, the argument it makes

against the thresh of trees, the racing clouds, the race
of birds and sky birds always lose:
the lines have ranged, but not the cheek’s strong bone.
My fingers touching there recall that place.

Once we were one. Then what time did, and hands, erased
us from the future we had owned.
For some, the future holds what hands release, not made.

We make a bridge. We walked it. Laced
night’s sounds with passion.
Owls’ pennywhistles, after, took our place.

Wasps leave their nest. Wind takes the papery case.
Our wooden house, less easily undone,
now houses others. A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.
I make these words for what they can’t replace.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief

h/t the beauty we love


9 comments on “A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, one thing I can always count on when I sit down in the morning to read your blog post is a thought provoking brain challenge. Today’s post hits home probably more than many of your posts because it caused me to reflect on past years of life and what they really have meant to me. Do we really own any thing? We are here in this life a few short decades pretending we own houses and land but really we are just taking care of it for the next owner. I can only hope and strive to leave what I have in good care for the next person that decides to take it over. Some day I won’t be able to garden any more and I can only hope that the land will be cared for by another passionate gardener.

    Have a great life shaping day.


    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Your reflections on the poem are good food for thought. Do we really own anything? As someone said, there are no luggage racks on hearses. I like to think they we are all stewards of the things that come into our possession during our lives, especially the land. As you say, we should take care of them for those who will need them after we’re gone. thanks for your thoughtful comment.


  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Thank you!


  3. bobraxton says:

    for what words / can’t replace / I make these


  4. So many things to think about in these lines…a future released, not made for example. Thank you.


    • Bill says:

      It’s a rich poem. I’m glad you appreciate it. The idea of a life being shaped by what it holds or makes really stuck with me.


    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      I’ve read this several times now – this last one right out loud
      And though the words have had no change, ne’er does it sound the same.
      Each time’s the phrase heard differently, with separate intent.
      E’en so, familiar too… As “if you truly love, then set it free”
      For what will be can have no bonds and knows no boundary…


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