Jane Hirshfield, “I Know You Think I’ve Forgotten”

You think I’ve forgotten—the experience of you is now a mixture of memory and pain. My feeling that you could reasonably doubt me wells up, causing both guilt and indignation:

I Know You Think I've Forgotten (from poets.org)
Jane Hirshfield

but today
in rain

without coat     without hat

This poem’s lack of specifics makes its immediacy maddening. Soaked to the bone, one lives in grief. But grief over whom? A lost lover? Should I use these words for, say, a lost family member, an exponent of a love felt in one’s own bones? —I don’t know why I am loved, just that I am. A nonverbal love which can be hostile to words, but is certainly felt everywhere.—

If I use this poem to express that sort of love, one that isn’t chosen, mythic and familiar connotations emerge. We’re back to the Flood, to primordial waters. Someone who helped create us is gone; no parents or relatives are there to tell us to put on a coat or hat in the rain.

Let’s say, though, you’re missing a potential partner at this very moment. Then you’re still completely vulnerable, rooted in grief. One is hurt, missing the other, and the only thing that can be said which makes any sense is that it’s all a chaotic mess. If you try to create fine distinctions within the grief and pain, try to understand what exactly causes what feeling, all you get is that undertaking such a process feels wholly unnatural. What’s most important in this mixture of guilt and anger: one hasn’t forgotten.

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