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What is it to be human?

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What is staying alive? To possess   
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer   
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.


Source: Poetry (April 2008)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

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What is it to be human?

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