Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Duty of Care

Today’s poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International in 2009. Sadly, the magazine has since closed after a very successful run for some years as Poetry Monthly. The poem subsequently appeared in my collection the following year. [I often add alternative titles to blog entries to help facilitate searches.]

Whatever our socio-cultural-religious, political or even sexual persuasion, our lives will be found sorely wanting unless we allow for and respect certain points of view and aspects of Belief  (or non-Belief) that are different from, even hostile to our own.

Yes, we should condemn criminal/terrorist violence and any that seek to force others to adopt a twisted ideology tailored to their own distorted view of raison d’être, but there is a world of difference between engaging with and relating to raison d’être in (many) different ways and upholding a distorted view of it.

As I have said before on my blogs, our differences do not make us different, only human, and to be human is to understand and act upon a sense of compassion; nor should compassion (ever) be mistaken for being patronizing or showing pity, a form of weakness or some unwelcome intruder bent on having sport with us…but needs to be acknowledged and accepted for what it is, a life force that requires nurturing since, without it, humankind loses much if not all of its humanity.

Oh, and how to nurture? Well, could it be perhaps that where there’s a common socio-cultural-religious- political will, there really is a way? Fat chance, I dare say, but if enough people make enough ripples…one day, who knows?  We all have a duty of care towards each other, always have had, and even if not especially in the world today, looking out for each other across divisions, not creating them, leading by example as and when we can, and trusting others may yet follow. Yes, we are only human, but is it really too much to ask...of all of us, not just those who care because they are naturally caring people and/or they work with the emergency services.

This poem is a kenning, or 'Who am I?' poem as the kenning is often called.


Invariably, I am tested to tears
where fear, resentment, blame, even hate
would have me take on the persona
of some dark angel, turning its back on all
it holds dear, clawing its way
under the skin of whom it holds responsible
for those self-same tears
shed for a love meaning more, far more
than any free fall horror

Invariably, I am all but torn apart
where a native sense of right and wrong
weigh down the scales of justice
on a side I would much prefer not to be,
taking the human heart to places
it would much prefer not to go, carried
in spite of itself by a relentless
undertow of fiercely conflicting emotions
preventing rescue

Invariably, I reach out for hands
stretching from a shadowy shore so near
yet, oh, so far…and it comforts me
in my distress to know there is goodness
and hope where the human heart
beats with a will to overcome its worst,
demanding we do our best, despite
a tearful mist blurring the sight, sure threat
even to love’s lasting light

Survivor, where conscience spares no one,
I am called Compassion, and only human

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2017

[Note: this poem has been slightly revised from the original that appears under the title 'Only Human' in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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