On the Fifth Day …

Yesterday I came across this poem, On the Fifth Day, by Jane Hirshfield.  The poem speaks simply and eloquently for itself and needs neither introduction nor explanation from me.


On the fifth day

the scientists who studied the rivers

were forbidden to speak

or to study the rivers.


The scientists who studied the air

were told not to speak of the air,

and the ones who worked for the farmers

were silenced,

and the ones who worked for the bees.


Someone, from deep in the Badlands,

began posting facts.


The facts were told not to speak

and were taken away.

The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.


Now it was only the rivers

that spoke of the rivers,

and only the wind that spoke of its bees,


while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees

continued to move toward their fruit.


The silence spoke loudly of silence,

and the rivers kept speaking,

of rivers, of boulders and air.


Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,

the untested rivers kept speaking.


Bus drivers, shelf stockers,

code writers, machinists, accountants,

lab techs, cellists kept speaking.


They spoke, the fifth day,

of silence.


Jane Hirshfield is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent collection is “The Beauty.” She will read this poem from the stage at the March for Science on April 22.

18 thoughts on “On the Fifth Day …

    • I thought so too. Interestingly, when the poem was published in The Washington Post, it received many very negative comments. I am always amazed that people can forget that everything in life begins with nature … including our ability to live at all. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, we are actually here, conditional on Nature.
        During severe storms and flooding a couple of years back; one coastal town just avoided worse case by mere inches. The TV reporter had got quite carried away saying loudly ‘Tonight Nature was tamed’……when it was a case of ‘Tonight. You got lucky’
        Arrogance could well be our final downfall (Or would it be Hubris?)
        Best wishes

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wonderful – and awful, in the sense of what it is saying. Nature cannot be silenced, but she can be changed. We are not her mistresses or masters and we cannot live without her. If we want her to be our friend we need our facts and figures and scientists – and certainly our bees. Thank you for finding and sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. We need nature a heck of a lot more than she needs us! I suspect Mother Nature is losing her patience with us, and yet … human greed continues to trump (pardon the pun) good stewardship of our environment. It is, I believe, the single most important issue of the day, but so many just aren’t getting it.


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