The giver (for Berdis)

If the hope of giving

is to love the living,

the giver risks madness

in the act of giving.

Some such lesson I seemed to see in the faces that surrounded me.


Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted, what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?


The giver is no less adrift

than those who are clamouring for the gift.


If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,


if their empty fingers beat the empty air


and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer


knows that all of his giving has been for naught


and that nothing was ever what he thought


and turns in his guilty bed to stare


at the starving multitudes standing there


and rises from bed to curse at heaven,


he must yet understand that to whom much is given


much will be taken, and justly so:


I cannot tell how much I owe.


- James Baldwin


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