Day 2/30 - one compassionate moment
City of my youth
It would be more decorous not to live. To live is not decorous
Says he who after many years
Returned to the city of his youth. There was no one left
Of those who once walked these streets.
And now they had nothing, except his eyes.
Stumbling, he walked and looked, instead of them,
On the light they had loved, on the lilacs again in bloom.
His legs were, after all, more perfect
Than nonexistent legs. His lungs breathed air
As is usual with the living. His heart was beating,
Surprising him with its beating, in his body
Their blood flowed, his arteries fed them with oxygen.
He felt, inside, their livers, spleens, intestines.
Masculinity and femininity, elapsed, met in him
And in every shame, every grief, every love.
If we ever accede to enlightenment,
He thought, it is in one compassionate moment
When what separated them from me vanishes
And a shower of drops from a bunch of lilacs
Pours on my face, and hers, and his, at the same time.
Can you picture someone returning to their hometown?
Memories, loss, grief, past loves, regret - they all return. The poem opens with a dramatic declaration of despair and perhaps survivor’s guilt. But as he walks down the street, the poem also moves from isolation towards connection and this immense sense of being alive. It is no longer shame or guilt that he is still alive. Instead there is a sense of purpose or privilege - he sees and walks and breathes, but not just for himself. In this sense being alive is also about being a part of history and a part of humanity.
As readers, even if we do not share his particular history, we are swept along in that “compassionate moment”, until we too are standing in that street, breathless, overtaken by and submitting to the beauty and light and colour, as if we too are receiving a blessing, a baptism from above.
In a time when countries, families and individuals feel like they are under siege, art’s ability to connect and create “one compassionate moment” to someone ese’s story, someone else’s crisis or someone else’s youth, is important....and hopefully in that process we connect too to that transcendent power who makes flowers bloom.