Being With

by Mark Chmiel

I have some grand notions in my head
But they often fall by the wayside
When I’m sitting at the table
Talking with one person
Hearing all that has happened
In that one life.
–Dorothy Day

I’m with you Dorothy
Whether it’s being with one aspiring PCT at Forest Park Community College
Or
One doctor on the phone for an hour who is bouleversée after a colleague is murdered
Or
One bodhisattva nurse celebrating milestones at Local Harvest Cafe
Or
One Palestinian teacher who reminds me of the presence of history as we sit at Starbucks
Or
One daughter of a World War II veteran recollecting his youth at Fatima’s Laclede salon
Or
One young poet weeping her truths at Northwest Coffee
Or
One friend who beamingly tells us at Sasha’s about her first date (with her future husband) when she was 16
Or
One Iraq war veteran who lingers after class
Or
One sage storyteller who reads me poems out back at Café Ventana (she ought to have a weekly hour on NPR)
Or
Anyone I happen to give more than five minutes to
Because a lot can be revealed in mere minutes
Whether by rhapsody or wrinkle or whisper
Yes the grand notions dissolve
And that line from Levinas lingers:
“Ethics arises out of the face of the Other”

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