The Moment It Happened
Later she would say it was a miracle.
Afterward he would tell friends it happened just in time.
Someone answered the phone. Someone took her seriously.
Someone made sure he got help immediately.
Someone called her back from the ledge or found him
a place to stay, a hot meal, a ride to the hospital
the moment the world fell apart.
Do you think these things happen by accident?
Do you think they can be exported or computerized,
swept out of town, or sorted by zip code into oblivion?
Someone needs to be in the office the morning he comes in,
fresh out of jail with only a pebble of hope in his pocket.
Someone needs to call the authorities and
someone needs to be the authority called
for the 6-year-old boy found scared in the field,
the 96-year-old woman with no one left to help her fill out the forms,
the new bride who drove herself to the hospital with a fractured arm
and marriage, and the man who was too afraid to ask for help.
This is not the story of welfare generations,
lazing on apartment terraces while the rest of us pay taxes.
This is not the story of freeloaders buying steak with foodstamps.
This is not even the story of whether there are mistakes or delays.
This is about the young man finally able to hire his own caregivers,
the child afraid to leave her alcoholic mom, the couple trapped
in overbearing pain and poverty, the man terrified to tell
what happened to him. This is the story of a woman
wheeling herself over the threshold to remind us
that in this country, this Kansas we don’t sacrifice children.
We don’t sacrifice each other. We reach into our pockets,
we figure out ways to make something out of nothing,
we open our arms, we cradle the hurt, and we rock to sleep the weary,
recognizing in their eyes the moment our own world fell apart,
and how someone was able to make all the difference
by the simple miracle of being there.
— Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, poet laureate of Kansas
The planned closure of the state welfare office in Lawrence has become the subject of a poem by the poet laureate of Kansas, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.
“We don’t sacrifice each other,” Mirriam-Goldberg says in the poem. “We reach into our pockets, we figure out ways to make something out of nothing, we open our arms, we cradle the hurt, and we rock to sleep the weary, recognizing in their eyes the moment our own world fell apart, and how someone was able to make all the difference by the simple miracle of being there.”
In an interview Wednesday, Mirriam-Goldberg, of Lawrence, said she doesn’t believe Gov. Sam Brownback will read the poem, “The Moment It Happened,” and change his mind about closing the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
But, she said, one of the jobs of a poet laureate “is to give voice to what fellow Kansans believe.”
She added, “I believe no matter what a person’s political affiliation, if we were to take a poll, I can’t imagine most people would support closing an SRS office as large as the one in Lawrence without any governmental process involving the key stakeholders.”
She wrote her poem after a community meeting that drew an estimated 700 people last week at Plymouth Congregational Church. She read it at a rally Saturday at South Park, posted it on her blog and, now, it has more than 1,000 hits.
Mirriam-Goldberg’s job as poet laureate is in limbo. She was appointed two years ago to a three-year term by the Kansas Arts Commission. The poet laureate receives a $2,500-a-year stipend to hold various events and workshops. Brownback, however, vetoed funding for the Arts Commission.