Friday, February 1, 2019

ODT #4 building services

People are helping me to collect poems that come at my One Difficult Truth for 2019 All Time in different ways.  Steve Peterson, aka @insidethedog, found this one for me...

The Illuminist | Jane Hirshfield

Even in his glass cabin you can see
the man driving the snowplow
is whistling, happy. He races
one road, then the next, moving new snow.
A monk patiently hammering gold-leaf,
before him the world grows pliably, steadily brighter.
And if more will fall again tonight,
no matter.
He will put on his hat, his gloves,
and make again order.
All day the plow’s sound rises,
a pre-Gregorian chanting singing its singer.
Gold of winter sun grows thinner and thinner.
he can lay it right with the little plow.
The scriptorium darkens over white vellum.
His puttering ink-stroke, lengthening,

And if it's my job to translate some of these expressions of paradox, of  bitter/gorgeous-messy/miraculous- tedious/tantalizing, into versions for my young poetry fans, here's how this one might go.

Building Services | after Jane Hirshfield

Even louder than his growling you can hear
the man mopping the floors
is driven, determined.  Mr. B polishes
one hallway, then the next, moving the day's dirt.
Ms. P patiently herds hands placing tiles;
before us the wall grows tesselated, steadily sparkled.
And if more mud will ride in again tomorrow
on our shoes, no matter.
He will fill up his bucket, add soap
and make again order.
All day the polisher's sound rises,
the circular pad throatily spinning its song.
 Flicker of mosaic tree grows broader and brighter.
Now, for a minute,
he can mark it off with yellow CAUTION signs.
The skylight darkens over white cement-board.
 Our glittering glass-field, spreading,
         ©Heidi Mordhorst 2019

 The round-up today is hosted by dear Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, where--oy!--she is as full of surprises and serendipities as ever.  See you there.


  1. So much love for this post! Your friend, sending you the perfect poem; you, taking it and making it applicable to your students. The mosaic is filling in :-)

  2. Love! This is such a good reminder of how just keeping on being faithful in small things is worth it, even on discouraging days like today turned out to be for me.

  3. Love how you contrasted the Janitor and the artist the same way Hirschfield contrasted the snowplow driver and the monk.

  4. I love how you learned from this master poet and created something fresh and new. You have wonderful insightful vision. I'm inspired.

  5. Perfect expression of the joy in putting things to rights, even simple jobs that continually repeat the need. I love your adaption of the theme!

  6. I love what you are doing here, Heidi. Beautiful work and thought-provoking. I have to go back and read the background on your project. Janet

    1. Thanks for all your comments, Janet. I appreciate your traveling through it all.

  7. I love the way these two poems dovetail into a larger meaning - beautifully done, Heidi.

  8. Oh, Heidi! This is spectacular. I know the first poem because I have also read yours. What a wonderful interpretation of Hirschfield. I do love,
    Now, for a minute,
    he can mark if off with yellow CAUTION signs.
    Pass me a yellow caution sign please. I'd like to preserve a creative square of my life.

  9. Love the contrasts, perhaps a lesson for all of us, to notice again how the persistence of one dovetails into another's life. Your students are so, so fortunate, Heidi. It's a beautiful "after" poem.

  10. This is brilliant, Heidi. The image of the tesselated wall, "steadily sparkled" is gorgeous, and I love that Mr. B is there to "make again order." Messy and miraculous indeed!

  11. What an awesome poetic conversation -- full of both echos and contrasts. Beautiful....

  12. One poem begetting the other–will you share both with your students–such clarity and contrasts living together.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!