I realize I might lose all my cred here but I had to post this poem. The author David Rakoff wrote this little diddy and read it on the NPR show “This American Life,” and when I listened to it, I was moved. It is really about the nature of relationships and why we open ourselves up to them when they could all potentially end in failure. You can imagine the potency it had after I got my derrière canned by a lady this past spring and literally, but coincidentally, heard this a couple days after. It was a good consoler and I hope it can help other people out like it did me.
Why am I including this on the CHH? As fictitious GE executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) says on the show 30 rock “Poetry is just another way to rap.”
The scorpion was hamstrung, his tail all aquiver;
just how would he manage to get across the river?
“The water’s so deep,” he observed with a sigh,
which pricked at the ears of the tortoise nearby.
“Well why don’t you swim?” asked the slow-moving fellow,
“unless you’re afraid. I mean, what are you, yellow?”
“It isn’t a matter of fear or of whim,”
said the scorpion,
“but that I don’t know how to swim.”
“Ah, forgive me. I didn’t mean to be glib when
I said that. I figured you were an amphibian.”
“No offense taken,” the scorpion replied,
“but how about you help me to reach the far side?
You swim like a dream, and you have what I lack.
Let’s say you take me across on your back?”
“I’m really not sure that’s the best thing to do,”
said the tortoise, “now that I see that it’s you.
You’ve a less than ideal reputation preceding:
there’s talk of your victims all poisoned and bleeding.
You’re the scorpion — and how can I say this — but, well,
I just don’t feel safe with you riding my shell.”
The scorpion replied, “What would killing you prove?
We’d both drown, so tell me: how would that behoove
me to basically die at my very own hand
when all I desire is to be on dry land?”
The tortoise considered the scorpion’s defense.
When he gave it some thought, it made perfect sense.
The niggling voice in his mind he ignored,
and he swam to the bank and called out: “Climb aboard!”
But just a few moments from when they set sail,
the scorpion lashed out with his venomous tail.
The tortoise too late understood that he’d blundered
when he felt his flesh stabbed and his carapace sundered.
As he fought for his life, he said, “tell me why
you have done this! For now we will surely both die!”
“I don’t know!” cried the scorpion. “You never should trust
a creature like me because poison I must!
I’d claim some remorse or at least some compunction,
but I just can’t help it; my form is my function.
You thought I’d behave like my cousin, the crab,
but unlike him, it is but my nature to stab.”
The tortoise expired with one final quiver.
And then both of them sank, swallowed up by the river.
The tortoise was wrong to ignore all his doubts —
because in the end, friends, our natures wins out.
So: what can we learn from their watery ends?
Is there some lesson on how to be friends?
I think what it means is that central to living
a life that is good is a life that’s forgiving.
We’re creatures of contact, regardless of whether
we kiss or we wound. Still, we must come together.
Though it may spell destruction, we still ask for more —
since it beats staying dry but so lonely on shore.
So we make ourselves open while knowing full well
it’s essentially saying, “please, come pierce my shell.”