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’