Broken Branches
           October 2, 2017
by Reggie Marra

Rilke wrote that he wanted a lot,
perhaps everything,
but what I want if I have to have
a House, Senate and President
are people who see
at least as much of the world as I do,
preferably more,
who can consciously
recognize and hold paradox,
who are clear on what they are for,
not just what they oppose –
who spend more time
and energy with the former
and are able to articulate complete thoughts
in complete sentences
with or without a teleprompter,
and who understand the words they speak,
the meaning their syntax conveys,
and avoid clichés and won’t speak
words that are not true.

I want a House, Senate and President
who embrace
an increasingly balanced,
comprehensive and inclusive
view of the world, and who,
faced with both love and fear,
err on the side of love –
and recognize and live
with the healthy tensions
along the continua of
wisdom and compassion,
justice and mercy,
intimacy and solitude,
who recognize that we all suffer
within our individual and collective stories,
and who understand that people
are more important than money and things,
especially, but not only, when it comes to
health care and gun laws.

I want a House, Senate and President
who feel and speak 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,
Washington, Aurora,
Littleton, Charleston,
Dallas, Baton Rouge,
Red Lake, Fort Worth,
Orlando, Killeen,
Salt Lake City, St. Paul,
Austin, Blacksburg,
Wakefield, Roseburg,
San Ysidro, Edmund,
Omaha, Louisville,
Atlanta, New Rochelle,
Las Vegas, and all those I left out
because there are too many.
If I have to have a House,
Senate and President
I want human beings who understand
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
human beings.
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 Representatives, Senators
and a President who would read
to the end of this poem.
And not because it would help them
get re-elected or they were expected to.
I want Representatives, Senators and a
President who would read a poem.
And not just oppose it.

Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Reggie Marra | | | Adapted from “A New President” Copyright © 2016 by Reggie Marra
*From Rabbi Marc Gellman’s remarks at the September 23, 2001 Memorial Service at
Yankee Stadium
Transcript © 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

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