A Sick Child by Randell Jarrell - With Guest Dr. Lamar Johnson

January 13, 2018







How do you tell a child that he is dying?


This poem terrified me. It made me never want to have a child. What if this were to happen to my child?


Literature cannot solve all of our problems, but it can be a salve to many of them.


In talking to my old high school friend, Dr. Lamar Johnson, about this emotional issue, I came to appreciate the grandiosity of life and our role in society. Dr Johnson is a pediatrician who has to think about how to deliver terrible news to people. How do you cope? How do you convey this experience? For me, it was a cathartic moment. That's poetry. Dr. Johnson and I conversed with the verse. And we also talked more broadly about life, philosophy, how to tell the truth, race relations, culture and oh so much more.






by Randall Jarrell


The postman comes when I am still in bed.
"Postman, what do you have for me today?"
I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.)
Then he says - what shall I have him say?

"This letter says that you are president
Of - this word here; it's a republic."
Tell them I can't answer right away.
"It's your duty." No, I'd rather just be sick.

Then he tells me there are letters saying everything
That I can think of that I want for them to say.
I say, "Well, thank you very much. Good-bye."
He is ashamed, and turns and walks away.

If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want . . . I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!

Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them. . . . And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of - think of me!

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