God, give me the humility
to tend from a small place—
to offer worn, indelicate hands—
to the labor of delivery.
If you show me a curl of hair
to turn from a tormented forehead,
make my fingers’ touch two seconds of respite—
even when there is no prospect
of being known, seen, or remembered—
though my touch breaks off from my person
and I begin and end this whole life
invisible as the wind that washes over
the delusions of a fever,
always give me the strength
to hold one more broken human
in these two human arms.
Though you are silent—
though you give me cold proofs while
refusing to show me
how you smell in the morning
and how you sound when you sing over the valleys—
though I am angry at the prospect
of years upon years of faith without sight when you have made me carry sentience and impulse—
though some of these humans you have made radiate
and I am tempted to kneel before them—
so that I might stare into the whole universe of two close eyes—
though you hide from me and test me—
at least make me brave enough
and kind enough
to bear the electric storm
of a heart that is not mine
For all you have not given me,
do this one thing.
I implore you.
Let kindness be my widow’s oil.
Open my fist grip (or dash the ribs of my chest)
if this great and holy novel you are writing
needs a Peggotty.
So be it.
Just give me the character to roll up the sleeves of an old work dress
and sink my hands in the water
to quietly wash one more set of dishes,
even when I can hear
the music of the ball next door.
When I feel faint from the hunger
of this faith you require—
when my knees and fingers shake while
looking through the bakery glass—
when I must whisper my own name
to remember what it sounds like—
when the hair I cut off
to give away leaves me nothing but
an old fool who knows the wrong books,
then take this fool’s skin and fill it
with new wine so that
when you turn me up
to the lips of the perishing,
their hearts will be made glad.
“Man in a Room” by Rembrandt