Rilke wrote that he wanted a lot,
but what I want if I have to have
a new president
is someone who sees
at least as much of the world as I do,
who can consciously
recognize and hold paradox,
who is clear on what she is for,
not just what he opposes –
who spends more time
and energy with the former
and is able to articulate complete thoughts
in complete sentences
with or without a teleprompter,
and who understands the words being spoken,
the meaning their syntax conveys,
and avoids clichés and won’t speak
words that are not true.
I want a president
an increasingly balanced,
comprehensive and inclusive
view of the world, and who,
faced with both love and fear,
errs on the side of love –
and recognizes and lives
with the healthy tensions
along the continua of
wisdom and compassion,
justice and mercy,
intimacy and solitude,
who recognizes that we all suffer
within our individual and collective stories,
and who understands that people
are more important than money and things.
I want a president who feels and speaks from
exactly the same gut-wrenching heartache
when the first-grader, the police officer, the
black man, the soldier, yes,
the human being
dies a violent death
in Bethesda or Baghdad,
Singapore or Sandy Hook,
San Bernardino or Saigon,
Hiroshima or Harlem,
Parkland or Pearl Harbor,
San Salvador or Selma,
New York or Nagasaki,
Kabul or Kansas City,
Binghamton or Beirut,
Auschwitz or Oakland,
Paris or Pine Ridge,
Dallas, Baton Rouge,
Red Lake, Fort Worth,
Salt Lake City, St. Paul,
San Ysidro, Edmund,
Atlanta, New Rochelle,
all those I left out
because there are too many.
If I have to have a new president
I want one who understands
what Rabbi Gellman meant when,
12 days later at the Stadium,
before we knew the real numbers,
he said that
“On that day – on that
day, 6,000 people did not die.
On that day, one person died 6,000 times.
We must understand this
and all catastrophes in such a way,
for big numbers only numb us
to the true measure of mass murder.
We say 6,000 died, or we say six million died
and the saying and the numbers explain nothing
except how much death came in how short a time.
Such numbers sound more like scores or ledger entries
than deaths of
The real horror of that day
lies not in its bigness,
but in its smallness.
In the small searing death
of one person 6,000 times,
and that one person was not a number.
That person was our father or our mother
or our son or our daughter or
our grandpa or grandma
or brother or sister or cousin or
uncle or aunt or friend or lover, our
neighbor, our co-worker, the woman
who delivered our mail or the guy
who put out our fires and
arrested the bad guys in our town.
And the death of each and every
one of them
would be worthy of such a gathering
and such a grief.”*
I want a president who would read
to the end of this poem.
And not because he was expected to.
I want a president who would read a poem.
And not just oppose it.
Copyright © 2016 by Reggie Marra
*From Rabbi Marc Gellman’s remarks at the September 23, 2001 Memorial Service at
Yankee Stadium http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/23/se.03.html
Transcript © 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.