Easier to Write than Live

Learning to Bend

. . . can be as a mountain is climbed,
keeping the center of gravity low,
stooped before an ascent to heaven,
before sparking flashes of sleet and snow
driven by bitter wind
in a place of awe and dread
you’ve chosen to go.

. . . can be as a horse is coaxed and cajoled
through weight of days and nights
in narrowed circumstance,
hearing again and again,
“No, not that way, but this,”
with tug of the reins and sugar supplied
by a soothing voice.  Then the soul relents,
one knee bent, pressed to earth,
the other straight, as foreleg levers down
the body’s weight, head bowed.

Bending is sometimes no lesson at all,
enforced by savage club
ever repeating its efficient arc
until blood flows,
until no memory remains
but this steady rain.

We all learn to bend,
willing or unwilling,
to a multitude of ends.
Always, someone or something stronger stands,
making claim.

Learning to bend,
spirit must decide,
sifting the worthy from the unworthy:
whether to yield before greatness,
whether to stand against injustice
though body is made to bow
by a mortal blow.

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