Sunday, August 06, 2006


The poem I read today...

Where can the tenderness go to hide?
When the buttery scent of my daughter’s sweaty head
And the soft of her hair,
My fingertips there
Are overlaid
By an aerial raid
And we’re running for our lives along the highway
That same head pressed to my shoulder,
Her legs pinned under my arm.

Shall I dig a little hollow in the earth,
scooping out the grass, the roots, the dark, crumbling soil
with a stainless steel spoon?
Shall I lift the tender, tuck it in, cover it up?
Shall I mark the spot in memory until my return, to dig it out and claim it back?
Or shall I forget?

Where can compassion go to hide?
When the photographs
Of bloodied halves
Of children and their wailing mothers,
And all the others,
Come shooting across the globe?
When I see the boys, just the shape and size, of my little son,
with the same knobby knees and bruised shins
and brave, jutting, defiant chins
Hurling their stones
at the rusting bones
of the great, unfeeling tanks?

Shall I breathe my compassion into a balloon and then pop it?
Will the feeling go away? Will the air pressure stop it?
Or shall I hold my breath?

Where can love go to hide, love for our only place and time?
When it’s love that makes us all short-timers
Social climbers,
Soiling our beds to pay the rent,
It isn’t really what we meant.
To do.

Shall I pull out the thread of my love for life,
And the love for my husband I hold as his wife
And set it alight with a single match?
Or shall I get a needle and thread,
And bind it tight and let it catch?

Where can hope go to hide?
When the days rolling out
Are filled with the shout
Of men with guns
And the rumbling of tons
Of steel and ordnance and pain?
When the air seems clear,
but we’re full of fear
That the heat is rising
and Nature’s surprising
Is more violent every year?

Shall I go to the beach and find a pebble
And rub with my thumb ‘til the thumb is numb
Spackling hope into pores and cracks,
And, without looking back,
Hurl it to the depths of the sea?

Would it ever come back to me?

The tenderness, lying still in the hole
The quiet compassion, rising up in the air
The love burning down
And the hope, drowning out –

What will these do to the soul I’m about?

I can’t let them go.
I can’t let them hide.
I can’t let them eat me alive from inside.
I must shelter them.
They are not what is asked for.
They are all but defeated.
But right now, perhaps, they are all that is needed.

Can it be?
In this moment,
This terrible moment
Of brutality and heartless despair
That these tiny seeds and
Flickering flames,
The trembling drops
The hero’s names
Are enough to see us through?
What else can we do?


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