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A Short Testament

a short testament - Anne Porter -

A Short Testament –

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.

~ Anne Porter (1911 – 2011)
(“A Short Testament” is from Living Things and An Altogether Different Language)


From the Poetry Foundation: “When [Anne Porter’s] husband died in 1975, she began to write poetry much more seriously. As she told the Wall Street Journal: ‘I remember realizing that I was alone, and I’d have to be more organized. I had these poems, and I thought that it would be worthwhile working on them. I started to write.’

In Publishers Weekly, David Shapiro wrote, “Porter writes what might best be called plainsong: short, unadorned works that, like gospel or folk music, cut directly to the ambiguous heart of things.” Of her own late arrival on the poetry scene, Porter herself noted: “People don’t use their creativity as they get older. They think this is supposed to be the end of this and the end of that. But you can’t always be so sure that it is the end.”

Porter’s first collection, An Altogether Different Language (1994), published when she was 83, was named a finalist for the National Book Award.”

Read more about Anne Porter’s poem “A Short Testament” and about what I’d call the old Emersonian nonsense.

One Response

  1. Reflecting back on the year and acknowledging those we have harmed, wounded or wronged is commendable. Unfortunately, on our journey, no matter how much we try not to, we will end up hurting others, either through intention or not because of our imperfect humanness. Alongside recognizing the harm we may have caused to others, in addition to making reparations, if possible, we need to seek to forgive ourselves, as well as others who may have wronged us. We could ask as the new year comes upon us to practice Alexander Pope’s “to err is human, to forgive is divine”. If we could all just forgive each other, without hope or agenda, for our human transgressions, wouldn’t the world be a much better place?

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