What if I became you?
A three-letter being instead of a one.
Not won but lost.
In your shoes with one lost sole.
A lost soul.

What if you became them?
A four-letter being instead of a three.
Not a one. Never won.
You as them. Not allowed in.
On the other side.

Outside, like them.
The other’s side.
Not here. Never here.
What if you were them?
You, an other.


Merril opens the new year at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. She asks us to consider time and space and what if. Her prompt: “What if you – or someone else – or some THING else – took that less or more-traveled path? Would it make a difference? Will it make a difference?  Look backward, forward, inside, and out. Then wonder, what if?” Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Stop by and begin your 2019 by imbibing some words today!

64 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. adda January 1, 2019 / 11:44 am

    When I first saw the title I thought to myself, if you were me…. ponderance of that was intriguing. But, an intriguing poem you wrote to get the grey cells working in 2019!! Kudos! . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 1:23 pm

      Glad you enjoyed! …. kind of like that idea of trying to walk in another’s shoes!


  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 1, 2019 / 3:21 pm

    This is just wonderful… the wordplay of walking in another man’s shoe… without sole, or a soulless look at the many outside. Wonderful…

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 3:30 pm

      Ah thank you, Bjorn. What a wonderful way to start 2019, with a compliment like this from you. Many thanks! And here’s to a happy and health 2019!


  3. merrildsmith January 1, 2019 / 3:30 pm

    You turned this prompt into a very thoughtful consideration, Lillian. What if I were you or you were them? Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 3:31 pm

      Thank you, Merril. Glad you enjoyed. It really was a thought-provoking prompt for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol J Forrester January 1, 2019 / 3:31 pm

    This a thinking poem that really requires the reader to pay attention, but one you do, wow, very cleverly written.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 3:32 pm

      Thank you, Carol. Glad you enjoyed. Yep — I tried to look at something from one side and inside and inside out and over there and over here. Walking in someone else’s shoes….someone who is always seen as an other.


  5. sarahsouthwest January 1, 2019 / 3:36 pm

    Oh, that’s interesting. Inclusion and exclusion. I do think imaginative empathy is the thing that keeps us us – and that is so important, especially at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 4:10 pm

      So glad you enjoyed, Sarah. Happy New Year to you!


  6. Grace January 1, 2019 / 3:44 pm

    Your first line certainly stirs up a lot of reflection.

    Things are different if one is on the other side of the fence or outside the borders. To have empathy for the other person will mean a lot and can bridge those differences. Good one Lillian.


    • lillian January 1, 2019 / 4:13 pm

      Thank you, Grace. Children separated from parents….people fleeing for a better life….for me, it is very difficult to fathom how, even if one believes in strong immigration policies, one can not be empathetic to the hardships and despair and inhumanity.


  7. Nadine January 1, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    I absolutely love it, well done. Hope more people start to think this way in this new year

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:03 am

      Good listening skills and empathy….may we all have more of these in the coming year.


  8. kim881 January 1, 2019 / 4:38 pm

    I so enjoyed this poem, Lill! I especially like the idea of a ‘three-letter being instead of a one’ and the wonderful play on words in the lines:
    ‘Not won but lost.
    In your shoes with one lost sole.
    A lost soul.’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Glenn Buttkus January 1, 2019 / 4:44 pm

    Such an elegant and heartfelt arrow to shoot into the dystopian grayness of the return of Congress and the crisis of immigration. Your illustration of Lady Liberty weeping is great; I’m borrowing it.


    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:06 am

      I’m hoping the change in the House will affect real and meaningful change. May there be more empathy and more listening…and calling out a falsehood as a falsehood.
      I do love the image…and it is sadly way too timely.


    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:07 am

      Thank you, Beverly. Glad you enjoyed it!


  10. Mish January 1, 2019 / 5:47 pm

    I like the way your words demand attention to listen, to step out of a comfort zone, to live another’s life and hardships. It is so easy for some to ignore the pain of others. Empathy never learned, I suppose. A very sad situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:08 am

      Amen, Mish. You understand my intent here exactly.


  11. Frank Hubeny January 1, 2019 / 6:18 pm

    There’s opportunity for empathy all over the place.


    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:08 am

      Empathy and good listening skills….so needed in today’s world.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. sdtp33 January 1, 2019 / 7:01 pm

    very clever…the way this twists and turns…well done

    Liked by 1 person

  13. kanzensakura January 1, 2019 / 10:44 pm

    What an amazing and thoughtful poem. Empathy is a wonderful word for 2019. Thank you Lillian for for writing this poem

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:10 am

      Thank you, Toni…for your kind words here. Yes: empathy is sorely needed, I do believe.


      • kanzensakura January 3, 2019 / 12:42 pm

        I chose three words for my 2019 instead of making those old fallible resolutions. I chose: love, hope, empathy.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Gina January 1, 2019 / 11:37 pm

    true empathy when we can walk in another’s shoes, but would their soul be there or just a vessel? what an amusing take on the prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. iidorun January 2, 2019 / 2:27 am

    I love this – your play on words and the imagery you used to describe an exercise in empathy. Your poem is so thought provoking and timely. Thank you for this brilliant read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:12 am

      I think, in my opinion, no matter the political affiliation, empathy to the needs of others…and effective listening skills…would go a long way. So many are simply seeking a better life….is it so hard to understand that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • iidorun January 3, 2019 / 11:02 am

        Totally agree with you! Empathy requires one to move their ego aside in order to listen and understand the other. Not centering one’s self is the struggle (I think) for most people but especially those with power and privilege.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Vigour of Film Lines January 2, 2019 / 9:22 am

    Thanks for the wonderful poem! Reminds me of the planned ending of Jodorowsky’s Dune, when all become one. Love the way you mince words to create a powerful impression.


  17. rob kistner January 2, 2019 / 4:19 pm

    Loved the way the words, and sounds, and thoughts entertwined here Lillian – engaging piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:15 am

      Thank you, Rob. On both my side of our family and my husband’s, the immigrant heritage is not too many generations behind us.


    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:17 am

      In the US, unless we have a very large percentage of Native American Indian ancestry, yes we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. rothpoetry January 3, 2019 / 10:08 am

    A very challenging question for all of us to consider. I love the use of lost sole and lost soul!


    • lillian January 3, 2019 / 10:18 am

      Thank you. Glad you enjoyed. The real question is, who is the lost soul?

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Waltermarks January 3, 2019 / 8:46 pm

    I can see why you have so many replies. This is an amazing poem of discovery; not of self discovery , but of third party perspective. Of people not many folks care about. Very deep!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 9, 2019 / 10:57 am

      Thank you for your kind words here. I thhk everyone needs to think empatetically more these days. Put on anothers’ shoes so to speak….even though we really cannot. What if we could? What if we had to?

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Just Barry January 5, 2019 / 1:00 am

    *nodding grimly in agreement*

    There is nothing I could say in reply to this that could possibly add to it. Not a damn thing. You said what you said, and that is that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lillian January 9, 2019 / 11:01 am

      It was an interesting piece to write….turning things inside out.


  21. Lona Gynt January 9, 2019 / 11:59 pm

    Reflective, recursive,
    Soft, incisive.
    Soft power
    Knowledge is power
    Know le edge
    Is how her
    Arm raises
    Alight in
    We are all each other
    Counting the cost
    And the syllables
    Shutting down
    We are altogether
    All together
    Every other thing
    💜this Lillian, homepoet.
    Answers the door


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