Poetry for Our Times

Today was my last poetry unit for this academic year with my students. As glad as I am that I get to keep teaching via technology, it isn’t the same. I always get a little emotional at the end of every school year because I hate saying goodbye to my students (even though I enjoy the summer break).

Today we did a series of poems about New York City, an iconic representation of our country. While most of these poems were regaling what a great place it is, we read them in a time when that city is the hardest hit of all of the US in terms of the coronavirus. Still, we can see how people who lived there envisioned it, and we can affirm it will return to that status, we hope sooner than later.

I finished with a poem that was written about these times by a Capuchin Franciscan monk in Ireland, Brother Richard Hendrick. It was originally posted on his Facebook page, but I’m not on Facebook so I don’t know how to access that. So I share it here, but want to make sure Brother Richard gets full credit for his beautiful words. It allowed me to end the unit with something that gave the students hope as they navigate through these hard times (as are we all).

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each otheracross the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able to touch across the empty square,

© Brother Richard Hendrick 2020

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