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  • Robison Wells

Poem 314

I've been thinking about Texas this week, as many have. I have good friends living in Texas under extreme conditions. I'm sure you've heard all the stories: broken pipes, day after day with no power, living off of unheated canned food, warming up in their cars for a quick respite before going back into the frosty house to try to endure some more.


A friend at work is dealing with these conditions in Houston. I reached out to her and she said that since Sunday she's bumped around from Airbnb to hotel to friends' houses. I have another friend in San Antonio with lots of pets and has taken to placing her snake and gerbils into (separate) pillow cases and placing the pillow cases under the family's shirts--sharing warmth with the little animals that wouldn't make it in the 30 degree weather of their home. I read an acquaintance on Twitter had taken a saw to her fence to burn the wood in their fireplace.


In her "Poem 314", Emily Dickenson wrote about hope, especially the hope that survives through storms.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -


And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -


I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.


Hope is a bird that sings sweetest in the storms. It's heard in the chilliest land (Texas?) and on the strangest sea. But hope never, despite all of the worst things that the world can dish out, asks anything of us. It sings sweetest in the gale and it keeps so many warm.


Another friend in Austin said she was going to the store and was going to ask people if she could pay for their groceries. In under ten minutes, Facebook friends had donated $600 to the cause. $600 won't save an entire state, but it could be a godsend to a handful of hungry families whose food has all spoiled in powerless fridges.


In the face of another pandemic, polio, the doctor Jonas Salk developed a vaccine that saved countless millions of lives. He decided not the patent it but to give it freely so that it could be produced as cheaply as possible. Of hope, he wrote "Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”


When we dream and imagine, we find hope. Hope to continue on despite nature's fiercest beatings. Hope to help feed the hungry around us. Hope to find a cure and a pathway forward out of a pandemic.


Hope is a thing with feathers, and sweetest in the gale is heard.


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