Metempsychosis is a philosophical term from the Greek referring to the transmigration of the soul – as well as being a spiritual doctrine which generally has something to do with an individual soul reincarnating from one body to another, often human but also into or from animals or plants.


It is also the title of a phenomenal poem by Jane Hirschfield which I seem to come back to over and over again. I say ‘phenomenal’ but like most judgements, mine is personal; I think my fondness for this poem begins on the first lines, in which she talks about stories – how some last for centuries….and others only for a brief moment.


Plus, she is such a great writer…


With no further ado, here it is.




Some stories last many centuries,

others only a moment.

All alter over that lifetime like beach-glass,

grow distant and more beautiful with salt.


Yet even today, to look at a tree

and ask the story Who are you? is to be transformed.


There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror.


Then the bees of self pour from the hive-door,

ravenous to enter the sweetness of flowering nettles and thistle.


Next comes the ringing a stone or violin or empty bucket

gives off —

the immeasurable’s continuous singing,

before it goes back into story and feeling.


In Borneo, there are palm trees that walk on their high roots.

Slowly, with effort, they lift one leg then another.


I would like to join that stilted transmigration,

to feel my own skin vertical as theirs:

an ant-road, a highway for beetles.


I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart.

To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch,

and then keep walking, unimaginably further.


~Jane Hirschfield~

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