Scary news for US Democrats today as Mass. bizarrely goes from Ted Kennedy to a guy in a truck. But I’m a fan of minority rule, so let’s see some wheeling and dealing to get things done. However, not all hope for the Senate is lost: one rogue fellow is plying the house back to humanity with the oldest of tools: poetry. (Well, aside from the stick inserted into a termite mound to fish the insects out to supplement a prehistoric protein rich diet. That’s more likely the oldest tool.)
Late one weeknight, in the midst of the heated run-up to the Senate’s vote to move forward with debate on health-care reform, Ward — Bingaman’s aide — tries to explain Gutman’s poetic appeal. Never one to linger on poetry before meeting Gutman, he suddenly goes all Gutman-y.
“You got three or four minutes?” Ward says. “I want to read you a poem.”
And he does.
All 61 lines.
It’s a Zbigniew Herbert work about five soldiers on the night before their execution. On first reading, Ward keyed on the lines about the horror of the execution:
Before the bullet reaches its destination
the eye will perceive the flight of the projectile
the ear record the steely rustle
the nostrils will be filled with biting smoke
a petal of blood will brush the palate.
Then he talked to Gutman, who took away something entirely different, remembering most the lines recounting the soldiers talking “of girls/of fruits/of life.”
“Huck talked about the richness of life,” Ward recalls. “For Huck, it’s that passion for every moment.”