A Poem

A poem, by Bertolt Brecht, (in memory of Stephen Resnick)


One knows the good people by the fact
That they get better
When one knows them. The good people
Invite one to improve them, for
How does anyone get wiser?  By listening
And by being told something.

At the same time, however
They improve anybody who looks at them and anybody
They look at.  It is not just because they help one
To get jobs or to see clearly, but because
We know that these people are alive and are
Changing the world, that they are of use to us.

If one comes to them they are there.
They remember what they
Looked like when one last met them.
However much they’ve changed —
For it is precisely they who change —
They have at most become more recognisable.

They are like a house which we have helped to build
They do not force us to live there
Sometimes they do not let us.
We may come to them at any time in our smallest dimension,
What we bring with us we must select.

They know how to give reasons for their presents
If they find them thrown away they laugh.
But here too they are reliable, in that
Unless we rely on ourselves
They cannot be relied on.

When they make mistakes we laugh:
For if they lay a stone in the wrong place
We, by watching them, see
The right place.
Daily they earn our interest, even as they earn
Their daily bread.
They are interested in something
That is outside themselves.

The good people keep us busy
They don’t seem to be able to finish anything by themselves
All their solutions still contain problems.
At dangerous moments on sinking ships
Suddenly we see their eyes full on us.
Though they do not entirely approve of us as we are
They are in agreement with us none the less.


best to all in shared sorrow and loving friendship,