William and Kim Stafford, Emily Dickinson, Derek Walcott, Jorie Graham, Leigh Hunt, Elizabeth Bishop, Luis Montero, David Wright, Gerald Stern, Judith Viorst, Philip Larkin, Seneca, Rumi, Hafiz, Stephen Grellett, C. K. Williams, Eleanor Lerman, Mark Doty, Hilarie Jones, Marilyn Nelson, Chuck Tripi, and more
But . . .as a human being . . you know . . . is there anybody thatâ€™s willing to help this lady and not let her die?â€
â€œNot at this timeâ€ the nurse answered.Â (AP, San Francisco Chronicle, March 5, 2013)
Okay I am! Me, here, miss! Count me in! And you too! Isnâ€™t that what we are all saying?
â€œNot at this time?â€â€”if not now, when? If not here, where? If not me, who?
Well, Iâ€™m paraphrasing here, Rabbi Hillel, a great Jewish scholar,
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?â€
Our show today takes the high ways and bi ways from the heart-breaking news about fear which represses our deepest humanity, a refusal to help a dying person: what invokes our bravery, our moral courageâ€”? How does poetry engineer neural roads to experiences that in turn lead to empathy, being known and knowing? Poetry, taking us, like roads do, to places we may never have imagined needing to goâ€”the miraculous in dust and shells and starfish, the ability to see prodigy and salvation in the unlikely. We hear about William Staffordâ€™s muse reassuring him to believe in what comes from paying attention, and finally his reassuring us, â€œit will be all right.â€ If we can believe this, perhaps we can make it so: we will do right and good, what Rumi calls â€œa mighty kindness.â€
Write me atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out Barbara Mossbergâ€™s Poetry Slow Down on facebook. Thank you for your kindness in joining me for this weekly celebration of poetry in our civic consciousness, the news we need â€œwithout which men die miserably every dayâ€ (Williams). With it, then, we live, to our fullest.
Â© Barbara Mossberg 2013