This poem was commissioned by the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism for their 2017 Service Summit.
How Do You Measure The Size of a Heart? - hakim bellamy
for the New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism
How do you measure
In shakes, pounds, daps, hi fives, peace signs
or number of times held?
In number of fingers
at birth, in number of toes
in the pocket
of a palm?
Palms of every race, creed and “other” indistinguishable
impossible to measure
just like our hearts.
Do you measure it
in how many times we’ve
helped someone up,
pushed somebody down,
or punched somebody in the face?
How do you give
someone a hand?
What does it weigh?
What kind of load does it lift?
Can you measure it in Newtons?
just the willful suspension of gravity
for guilt, for good
or for justice?
Is a hand nothing more than
the ability to put a pillow
between a neighbor
and the harsh realities of life?
is nothing more
than a good night’s sleep
in the absence of a Posturepedic mattress
it's a miracle wrapped around a soup kitchen handle
it rests on the shoulder
of the mentee you tutor
And other times
it is removing the chips-turned-boulders
from all the people who told them “they couldn't do it.”
At least 51 Saturdays a year we “bring it in,”
a circle of hands, hype and hope
before every competition
the epicenter of each huddle of relentless giving
from the coaches to the referees final whistle
Can hands be measured
in tons of litter
“adopted” from our roads?
Or square footage of housing erected,
habitats for humans
formerly known as homeless?
Can it be measured in 7.9 billion hours of national service last year?
Can it be measured
Can it be measured in coats driven,
buttoned, zippered, gift wrapped, and bowed?
Can it be counted in digits or door-to-door
Can they be raised
or question marks and light bulbs high above our heads?
Can a hand be measured in matter?
or handing cups to the drought.
To the most thirsty, dying from a desert
of touch inside them.
Can it be measured in kisses blown
or rounds of applause?
Can a hand be measured in care?
against foreheads, or beats per minute
just above the wrist?
Can a hand
be mistaken for a wing
in the eyes of the beholder?
Can a volunteer
be mistaken for an angel
in the eyes of God?
Could hope be confused with help?
Them be mistaken for us?
We undifferentiated from self…
Sure, the word volunteer
originally referred to a taking up of arms
it meant a different kind of corps.
But if what they say is true
the volume of a hand
balled up in desperation
is approximately the size of a fist…
Perhaps we are fighting for something
Perhaps we are fighting
Perhaps we are fighting for love
Catching all these hands, together
like answered prayers...
the measure of a hand
And you know what they say
about people with big
they are born
© Hakim Bellamy March 24, 2017
released March 24, 2017
all rights reserved