A kitten first, eyes gummed shut,
Too small to be without the purr and milk of its mother.
They place it proudly in my hands and I,
I rest its body on my heart.
The mother left it, the children say
Can you tell me if it’s a boy or a girl?
They are feeding it with a pipette.
They believe strongly she (he?) will live.
Then a baby bird, unable to fly.
The boys bring it to me
Wrapped tenderly in their fists.
They release and it perches carefully
On my open hand.
It’s hurt under the wing, they say
But when I look I don’t think it is.
It’s just young.
What do we do, the earnest ask
And I don’t know what the right answer is.
I do not tell them that it is perhaps too late to help.
Put it where you found him, maybe give him a little open box,
Maybe the mother will come.
Maybe she will forgive the stain of our touch on her child.
Then a pigeon, its neck in the mouth of a dog.
With my help it escapes, limps into the corner
of a shed.
I grasp its ruffled body, release it in a place
Probably safe from dogs and cats
Probably with enough food and water on the ground.
Probably it can heal there?
I have gotten used to holding in my hands
Things that will probably die.
I am not broken-hearted as I would have been as a child.
Just a little weary
What do we do
Confronted with the violence of life?
(The children walk up the hill with hope staining their fingers.
A woman on the street eats a single strawberry
Like a promise in her mouth.)
I pray for it all loosely.
My God must feel the pain of all creatures
But that is too great a burden for me to bear.
You can’t care that deeply for every suffering thing,
Even I know this much.
But what if you can care for the ones
That are placed in your hands,
Even just for those moments when your bodies touch?
What if you can become attuned with the quivering of animals
Who are not able to care for themselves?
What if you can grieve
Just a little
For the ones before your eyes,
The ones you see and cannot save.
Can we give thanks for their broken bodies?
Can we at least start with this?
I want to notice it all.
I want to pray for hopeless things.
I want to put faith in the gentleness of our clumsy hands.
I want to stand on the hard streets
And savor the taste of
For it is sweet.
Jenna Griffin loves foreign music, old cookbooks, public transportation, and sunsets in new places. After graduating with degrees in writing and French, she is spending her first post-grad year as an English teaching assistant in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.
Stunning! Thank you, Jenna. You are gifted with eyes that see, and words that tell.
I’d like to comment to what Brandi said by adding your gifts include a heart so strong, so loving, so compassionate!