April 30, 1995 in Features

We Mustn’t Become Desensitized

Michael Gurian
 

Watching news coverage of the bombing in Oklahoma City, we have all been deeply moved. Watching the body of a three-year-old pulled out of the rubble, my wife, Gail, turned to me and said, “My heart is breaking.”

Among my many feelings as I’ve seen the bodies being removed from the wreckage is a fear that we will come, before we realize it, to see these bodies as “bodies” - my fear that we’ll become desensitized to all the life those bodies have carried in them, and with them. In tribute to them, I offer today this poem, titled “Reciprocity,” adapted from the poem by the same name in my book of poems, “Emptying.”

When my heart is breaking, poetry is a place of spiritual depth to which I turn in search of meaning. With so many dead and so many still missing, I hope each of you can find your own way to lift a piece of spirit out of the carnage and pain. If each of us does not find our own way to make spiritual meaning of a tragedy like the one in Oklahoma, we make inside us only hate and fear. If this is all we make, the dead died in vain. xxxx RECIPROCITY Alive, these dead carried life on their bodies

hair, bugs, tears they carried their own blood

and ash from deaths that alighted a small second

on their bodies exhausted they often felt

their eyes needed carrying

they carried water on their bodies the wet breath

of plants always the black beetle the mosquito, the bee

sounds carried on their bodies even the unheard

all Einstein’s physics right there in their bodies all the human past

so powerful yet always very small

on their bodies they carried every yearning they met.

Their bodies were more the property

of the great good world than their bodies this is life’s reciprocity:

we borrow a body from the world the world borrows it back.

Michael Gurian is the author of two books on men’s issues, including “Mothers, Sons and Lovers.” He leads workshops across the country on gender issues. Letters can be sent to: Michael Gurian, c/o The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.

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