The way of life between

A personal prosery prompt

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “We are constantly dying alive. From the view point of temporality we are all dead except for a moment.”

It’s true, you know.

As we turn the calendar page to 2021, I think to myself: well, that was a moment.

Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.

Actually, that’s not quite right.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov famously said: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is not to be afraid.”

I am not afraid. I feel ready to face my coming moments. From my very limited perspective, they are both fleeting and countless, but counting them is a fool’s errand that I reject. It’s about making them count.

For example, the moments I spent writing this, and those you spent reading it… Those, I believe, were worth it.

d’Verse is taking a break for the holidays so there won’t be any prompts for a while…

So I’ll be trying out some prompts born of my mind instead!

I considered the idea of responding to prompts from other groups, but d’Verse satisfies my creative curiosity more than well enough – and I don’t want to spend all of my time responding to poetry prompts.

The rules of prosery are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The line I assigned myself was:

Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.

Robert Hayden (1913-80), ‘The Broken Dark’ (a poem)

I came across this line as I was reading through some of Hayden’s poems in his ‘Collected Poems’. Robert Hayden was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976 to 1978, a role today known as US Poet Laureate; and he was the first African-American writer to hold the office.

His experience of racial difference was bittersweet. Hayden passed his earliest years in a section of Detroit (later nicknamed Paradise Valley) that remained racially diverse until an influx of Southern blacks in search of jobs, followed by reactive white flight, turned it virtually all-black. His early familiarity with Jews, Germans, Italians, and other whites, reflected in several of his poems, perhaps laid the foundation for the transracial philosophy that is a hallmark of Hayden’s art. Attending a mainly white high school, he felt both a degree of ostracism and, at the same time, a degree of acceptance and understanding support.

-Arnold Rampersad (1941-), afterword to ‘Collected Poems’

34 thoughts on “The way of life between”

  1. I wonder what was going on when Hayden wrote that line.
    I personally feel you should’ve stuck to the prompt -Death on either side, the Rabbi said, the way of life between.- and expanded your thought process. I just cant seem to blend the lines of the two rabbis. I seem to accept Hayden’s line, especially after reading the short summary of his life.
    Im cautious. I’m not claiming 2021 as mine, one step at a time, I’m moving slowly into 2021. I should go and read the broken dark.

    1. You know, your comment has motivated me to write a second piece of prosery for this line of Hayden’s – a fictional piece. We’ll see if I follow through on that 🙂

      1. “felt both a degree of ostracism and, at the same time, a degree of acceptance and understanding ”
        those conflicted receptions:
        1.) of having every head in the room turn my way and stare, when I pointed out in Torah Study, after someone commented that the collection of gold and valuables before the Yetziat Mizraim was back pay for the labour during the years of slavery of klal Israel, that this was the same rational for Slavery Reparations in the US. I was avoided by everyone but the Leyning coordinator from then on, yet
        2.) every time I leyned I was complimented on my voice and on the clarity of my leyning, and asked to read more often. Sometimes in very moving ways, so I knew that it was sincere, and I felt supported in that way, but only because my voice and knowledge bought me acceptance. Yet not enough to talk about anything that mattered to me personally.

          1. Sorry, maybe it was not a good thing to mention in public, I don’t know. I just couldn’t keep silent any longer, as that was the second Torah study in a row that such comments had been made.
            The contrast was starting to kill me.

          2. No worries, the appreciation of that sharing is comforting to me in itself, as are your thoughts.
            l’Shalom, David, and thank you for providing me the space to share these experiences: may we all find some way, in time, to turn all of our experiences into a better one for all of us.
            much love,

  2. Those moments of writing were certainly worth it! I’m not afraid, either, for the moment I’m good, and I’m grateful for that 😊

  3. That quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is so very poignant. It can be understood quite literally and yet it’s also a realisation many don’t acknowledge. Thank you for sharing! I hope to check out that book soon. Brilliant write!

  4. I’m sure his thick coke bottle glasses didn’t help much with being one of the cool kids. From my study of daoism I have come to the belief that each moment is a unique convergence of the 10,000 things (i.e. all that is.) Each moment is precious, you’re right, and if we grasp for it it’s already gone. Words are but the residue of those moments, but they are good enough. Thank you for the thought-provoking post, David.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Yes- the afterword makes mention of his poor vision, which profoundly affected him. I really like the way you put this:

      Words are but the residue of those moments, but they are good enough.

      That’s lovely.

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