“We Walk the Luminous Seam”

Photo by Brad Peacock

The Fish

by Jane Hirshfield

There is a fish
that stitches
the inner water
and the outer water together.

Bastes them
with its gold body’s flowing.

A heavy thread
follows that transparent river,
secures it –
the broad world we make daily,
daily give ourselves to.

Neither imagined
nor unimagined,
neither winged nor finned,
we walk the luminous seam.
Knot it.
Flow back into the open gills.

Reprinted with permission.

Though there are many ways to read and interpret this poem, I take “the fish” in Jane Hirshfield’s poem to stand for that force in us which most would call the soul, for lack of a better or more precise word. It’s the part of us that “stitches/ the inner water/ and the outer water together,” forming life and knowledge from the intersection of those two very different yet interconnected worlds. “Soul” might seem nothing more than an airy and abstract term to some, but I love how Parker Palmer describes it: “Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places.” The world these days is nothing if not a challening place to thrive, and we need more time spent in touch with our own “resilient” souls if we are to navigate such stormy waters. Meditation, prayer, and stillness can show us that “the broad world” we shape in our minds is never the same as the one we must “daily give ourselves to,” surrendering to the reality around us, even perhaps as we work to improve it. Yet if we are able to take enough time for ourselves (and for our souls), we can “flow” between worlds, sometimes even enjoying the back and forth as “we walk the luminous seam.”

—James Crews

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