For the living wind that is the soul enters into this form, the body,
Strengthens it, makes it capable
Of life and wanders around within it like a caterpillar
That spins silk—
From which it is covered and closed in
As with a house.
In this form, the spirit
Of life discerns where the soul can divide,
Bend, turn about and fall into completeness. In just time,
The soul yearns for that of which it is shadow.
Who sees the inner things.
Death is a straitening. Even your skin weeps.
We lift out bone by elegant bone. I wish to be
Heartless and specific.
Wind blows our eyelashes dry.
In shifting snow, we find a weird intensive care.
All that is left after hard reckoning: our mouths
Punk with silence. In that new
Calcium phosphate, whitely sterile.
We stand in the midst of the measuring
Table, smuggling order.
Mutability is within the soul itself. It listens its way in
With eager mouth. God was never so economical.
Death inscribes its signature without blot.
It’s no fool.
I know now there is earth
Inside us. Ash.
Shame is when you turn
Your head away from something you do not want,
But did. Ash. In your hands.
In the eye no washing will remove.
Our only testy mother.
Title: Anne Carson, “As tree shapes from mist” in Men in the Off Hours (New York: Knopf, 2000), p. 43.
The first and second stanzas are refracts from Hildegard of Bingen, Causae et Curae in Holistic Healing, edited by Mary Palmquist (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1994), p. 56.
In the fourth stanza, the sentence on shame is a refract from Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005), p. 179.