Ester Cohen poem

i have few memories of being young. I remember walking in the fields with my father, and having him tell me to look at the birds flying and looking around wildly, trying to find them. My father was greatly relieved when he learned i needed glasses – he thought i was just a little ‘slow’. I remember a picture and maybe the event of going to school carrying a handful of flowers for my teacher. I was told that i always looked like ‘a little old man’ even as a child. I remember in kindergarten protesting that my brand-new sandals were NOT girl shoes. I convinced the first person that was true, the second never even hestitated: “Dick has GIRL shoes on.” I remember not being allowed to visit one of my father’s acquaintances who had a room full of electronics because “Dick would make one of his mad bull rushes” and knock everything down. I remember pouring milk over my lap in cub-scout camp at the table with other cubs and parents, and saying i would go back to the camp ground and change. My father had to come to get me since i was not intending to come back to breakfast.

Maybe i have LOTS of memories of being young, just not happy ones.

Did i have a typical youth? Does everyone have similar experiences if not similar memories? Was this little boy unlucky, or was he persecuted by a Loving God? Job at age 7.

Really, now – assume that everything happens for a reason. Every moment is a potential teaching moment. I certainly learned things, but i am not confident i learned what i was supposed to have learned. I might also wonder about my human teachers, not only the ones in school.

All those unpleasant memories are gifts from God, or rather the opportunties that engendered them were gifts. “Richard, my son, here is a holy moment you can learn humility, or self-respect, or courage, or …” I seem to be a bad student. I seemed to have learned that it is going to hurt and that it will never go away and that hurt is fatal. So i must hide so that death does not find me. Or maybe that if sufficiently pickled, i will last forever. Not that i want that, either.

It was second or third grade and the teacher sent me to the office with a message to give to someone. I was very proud at this and wished everyone could see me. There were a couple of teachers in the hall who were talking and they DID see me. I walked right through the group, proudly, said excuse me, and continued on — till i was called back. Now, i learned something from that – i would NEVER walk through a bunch of townies on Dixwell or a bumch of drug dealers hanging out. However, i will also do almost anything to avoid attention. I wished that i had had someone who could have helped me process it then – now these and other memories are so painful that i almost can’t bear to remember it.

Maybe i am processing it now – ineffectively. Sometimes i wish i could punish myself sufficiently to receive absolution for my having been a child and doing childish things. I keep trying, I also keep doing childish things. And i keep beating myself. How does that work for me?

I read a poem by Ester Cohen referenced on onBeing.org – part of her series on “Postcards from Passover“. The title of the poem is, i guess, (but it IS the title of the post): “Forgiveness, Say That It Is Possible.” I wrote someplace else that i have never, never forgiven a wrong — that was DONE BY ME. This poem hopes ‘to forgive whatever happened to us: betrayals, lies, even annihilation” I have this terrible, desperate horrible fear that whatever happened TO that child — without the experience or understand or capacity to learn from life and in the absence of lovingkindness around him, needs forgiveness. WHO should i forgive? WHAT am i to learn?  WHO should i forgive first?

For Passover this year
I’d like to invite
people I love, some
I like well enough
some who are in the OK category
to picture a word where we all
in the course of the meal
say that it is possible
to forgive whatever happened to us:
betrayals, lies, even
annihilation. Some of life
so terrible it’s hard to believe
what people can do to one another
difference makes us crazy
how could he why did she
different values religions ideas
close family friend for 30 years
he didn’t invite us to his wedding
my husband’s Armenian relatives
all killed by Turks. Hurt is not
an abstraction an idea. There is
always a reason why, an
unsatisfactory explanation.
Weakness insanity priorities even
personality. This Passover
maybe we can
liberate ourselves
from holding onto
what happened before
we don’t have to subscribe
to Be Here Now but we can try
letting go of all that gets in the way
of how Pink Egypt is
how much we can love one another
this Passover we will pass over
injustice because we want to try
a holiday experiment
maybe just this year, we can liberate ourselves
by saying these words out loud
Forgive
Forgive
Forgive
— ESTHER COHEN

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