He’s a man that I’m afraid of,
hard in his views on which
all the same he consults me,
wanting to hear mine but
never changing his own, as
matter that’s already fixed.
Books, poems, politics, actions
of the many or the few–the same
intensity if he troubles at all–he
reads and writes and listens
always to conversation, asking
questions, following the flow.
God knows what he gets from me,
but we seem able to talk forever.
Note also that he won’t give his
speechless, brain-damaged wife
to care, but tenderly helps her
stand with supportive hands.
–John Van Doren
[See The University of Chicago Magazine, May-June 2012, page 10. The photograph accompanying the letter published there was supplied by the Editors of the Magazine. George Anastaplo prefers “firm” in place of “hard” in line 2 of the remarkable poem, “Unyielding.” He himself must wonder, of course, whether such a preference itself reflects an overall effort on his part to moderate, or at least to conceal, any natural tendency in him toward hardness. However that may be, he can endorse the 1791 sentiment of Edmund Burke, “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”]