Jane Hirshfield, “I sat in the sun”

“I sat in the sun” (from Poetry)
Jane Hirshfield

I moved my chair into sun
I sat in the sun
the way hunger is moved when called fasting.


“Hunger,” a natural need, is repositioned by us for the sake of something spiritual. We take something we would ordinarily satisfy and turn it into a devotion. We take a weakness and try to make it a strength.

What is strange is how the last line of the poem – all the above – makes any sense. How do we immediately understand such a complicated convention as fasting?

The first two lines, by contrast, are much more difficult because of the all-too-simple image. “I moved my chair into sun” becomes “I sat in the sun.” “Moved” becomes “sat;” motion terminates in rest. “Chair,” an instrument, disappears in action. “Sun” is revealed as “the sun:” parts become whole, distinctions are made, through experience.

The spiritual is realized. Motion and instrumentality fade away. Knowledge takes on an aspect of the whole and isn’t quite knowledge as a result. What’s interesting is how the need (hunger) and the sacrifice (fasting) are parallel with what might seem hedonism – taking one’s fill of warmth and light on a relaxed, sunny day. I don’t even know this is a mere parallel. The way is the same.

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