We Are All Going to Die…So Be Nice

I have been thinking about this poem by Ellen Bass a lot lately. I try to recall it when the guy sitting next to me on the subway, shoulders pressing into mine, is blasting his iPod so loudly the beat from his music is more pronounced than the sounds coming out of my own iPod. I bring it to mind when the tourists stop dead in their tracks, right in front of me, causing me to bump into them while walking to work on a busy street. I grasp for the following lines when I lock eyes with the young mother who has just slapped her infant daughter for letting a pacifier fall from her mouth to the floor then mock the baby’s cries of pain.

What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

If You Knew 
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

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About djunapassman

I teach yoga, write, and edit. I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is changing faster than I can, or care to, keep up with. Manhattan still beckons me to her island a few subways stops away, reminding me of when I lived amongst her daily hustle and bustle.
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