April 12, 2016

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: Now You Know the Worst

My children are teens. They have lived long enough in this world to have experience with tragedy, both in our family and in the larger world. It's sad to think that they have a sort of script, a way of coping with death and violence in the news.

the independent sandy hook victoria soto
One UK newspaper, The Independent,
ran this front page on 12/16.
Younger children may not have these "skills." When we call small children innocent, are we saying that they have no filter to protect them from harm -- that their trust in life and human society is complete? They have lived nothing else.

Yesterday, I posted an article I wrote for the Baltimore Sun not long after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. The article looks at elementary schoolers coping with tragedy by making art. 

Yesterday, the Sun ran an article about a nationwide art project schools are participating in, as a response to the Sandy Hook massacre. A family in Montana is collecting paper hearts to send to Newtown, CT. Read the Sun's article here. Who can explain why creating and sharing art in response to such great pain brings comfort?

Since Friday, I have been thinking about a poem that brought me comfort when I first heard it on the radio. It was soon after 9/11. It has stayed with me ever since.

The poem is from Wendell Berry's A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. It is from a cycle of several untitled poems.

Available from Better World Books.


To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin

Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,

for I know that you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know

there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.

But remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.

You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light.

The rest of the poem is posted on this theological blog, but be mindful that it may have been posted without the author's permission. Here is another poem from The Timbered Choir, published on The Writers Almanac. And you'll find a review of the book here.

Wishing you all Peace today on the Winter Solstice. May each passing day be brighter.

Today's Poetry Friday hostess with the mostest is my dear friend Heidi Mordhorst. Stop by her blog, My Juicy Universe, for the complete list of Poetry Friday posts.


Tabatha said...

Beautiful, Laura. This is a keeper.

Jeannine Atkins said...

A Timbered Choir is now on my list. Thank you for the recommendation -- lines gave me chills, and it all does seem as good a prescription as any we can try to follow in our stumbling ways. It is really something to have to say to children "Now you know.."

Thank you for all you do to give children hope, and for sharing some of this with us. Wishing you peace in this season. Jeannine

Joyce Ray said...

Thank you for sharing the Wendell Berry poem. It is really wonderful. I know I'd like Timbered Choir.

Liz Steinglass said...

Thank you.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

"To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know

there is no answer
but loving one another"

"OUR bodies" is exactly how it is, and there is no other answer. Why don't some people see? Thank you, Laura, for bringing this particular light to the darkness all around. One I wish I'd written.

Author Amok said...

Thank you all. Heidi, it's remarkable that Berry can put together words that comfort. This poem is a gift -- maybe not an answer, per se, but a recognition of the worst and best humans can be.

Mary Lee said...

Love this poem. Also, your banner photo.

laurasalas said...

Oh, this is gorgeous, Laura. Thank you for sharing it. I thought it actually could have ended right here:

when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

Violet N. said...

There is lots to take away from your thoughtful post! The response of doing something beautiful and creative, (in the face of the unthinkable evil) like making art, is a good one to keep in mind.

Thanks for adding Wendell Berry's poem to the conversation. May we all have the "courage for love."

Amy LV said...

Laura, I am very grateful for you having posted this poem this week and just sent it to our family friends in Newtown. Many blessings and warm wishes to you and your family this season - thank you for being an inspirer! xo, a.

Author Amok said...

Amy -- thanks for that note. I appreciate it. Sending healing thoughts along to your friends.