Four Very Short Narrative Poems

Perspectives on Judgment and Trust
Asking for someone’s help is either an overt
admission of weakness—a confirmation of one’s
inabilities, frailties, and flaws—
or a poignantly human expression of a
belief in love and a risky act of imperfect
contrition for one’s fundamental humanity.

Secular Worship
It took me more than half a lifetime to fully embrace the
validity of the concept of “love they neighbor as thyself”
and to realize its morality is the bedrock of humanity.
It took me just as long to understand that loving thyself
is harder than the rock upon which our humanity stands.
But the key is to stretch toward that unreachable goal
through secular worship—seeking truth in the labyrinth
of ideas that form the basis of morality as we define it.

The Arc of Justice
First, we have to acknowledge that justice is a fiction,
an attempt at reaching agreement on a concept based not
on fact but on perspective. Justice is our jaundiced view
of a “fair” world seen through the lens of greater or
lesser experience, privilege, and generosity.
Next, we have to find commonalities between our perspectives.
Finally, our mutually, but radically different, blurred fields
of vision must be excluded from our images of justice.
Only then can we see the possibility of an arc of justice.
And that arc of justice, though shortened by the exclusion of our
differences, still is almost impossibly long.

Before they are taught how “cute” they are,
before they become actors who perform in return
for gushing appreciation and blind adoration,
they are heart-breaking in their purity.
In their explosive honesty and endless joy,
children show us we once had what we then
seek for the rest of our harrowing lives.
Adulthood is a curse, punishment for forgetting
the beauty of true honesty and unconditional acceptance.
We spend a lifetime unlearning lessons we knew from the start.
If only we’d just held on to that breathtaking innocence.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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