Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kristen McHenry: "In Defense of Gentleness"

Those who move
among us in frailty, those
who are broken
by their first
suffering, those
who cannot swim,
who will not take
their share, those
who balk at the confounding
wisdom of violence, of the
bloodlust force required
to muscle into the world, to merely
live upright,
are the ones
we come to in the end, begging
for gentleness, for proof
of mercy, however tenuous. All along,
they have guarded
the power of our fragility, like a sword
we are yet untrained to wield. All along,
they have known, and suffered for it. They
have held up
love like the world itself, thin
arms straining to contain its lightness. They are
in the end the most resilient,
the way the soft
bones of a willow
by deferring to the storm:
Shaking loose their sorrow.
Allowing, allowing, allowing.

"In Defense of Gentleness" by Kristen McHenry. Published online in Issue 5 of Numinous: Spiritual Poetry (March 27, 2011). © Kristen McHenry.  

Image credit: "Willow Tree in the Storm," original Chinese brush painting on rice paper, by unknown artist (originally color).



  1. Couldn't stop myself from reading it over and over.

  2. Reading this March 10, 2022, and thinking of the people of Ukraine and all the others affected by invasion or injustices that didn't get the same kind of news coverage. Beautiful poem that breaks my heart.

    1. Two years after my comment above the war in Ukraine continues, joined by horrendous violence in Gaza. So many "begging/ for gentleness, for proof/ of mercy, however tenuous" all around the world.


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