Poem Project – entry #10 For What Bind Us
For What Binds Us by Jane Hirschfield
There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down —
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest —
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
This poem is thick. I stumbled on another Jane Hirschfield poem and went looking for more. The title is what caught my attention first – human connections are a special interest of mine as you might have noticed.
When I attended Courage to Teach retreats, our facilitators would have the group read a poem and then call out phrases that had special resonance. If I was sitting with this poem, I would call out:
“joints dovetailed on their own weight” “proud flesh” “see how it is like a scar between their bodies” “with a great vehemence, more strong than the simple, untested surface before” “how the black cord makes of them a single fabric that nothing can tear or mend”
The imagery is powerful too. My father and sister are furniture builders, I know the clean lines and ingenuity of a dovetailed joint. And who hasn’t had a scar that rose up on their skin to remind them of the offending event: I have a nasty scar on a finger from a broken glass in dish water, my daughter has a scar below her collar bone -courtesy of her beloved cat, my most prominent scar is from my C-section and the birth of my son. Finally, it is my own personal experience of weaving my life with others which has left the most inspiring intersections of flesh and soul. If those intersections were made visible, my heart would show the finely woven evidence of their mesh casing.
I often make these fabric weavings – I like to do them because they can’t really be planned or repeated. I might choose the fabric and hues but I don’t put a huge amount of effort into making them look a specific way. I also like the texturing that happens – seemed to fit the poem.