A sympathetic person is placed in the dilemma of a swimmer among drowning men,
who all catch at him, and if he gives so much as a leg or a finger, they will drown him.
Confident our ship will never capsize,
so long as we are able to repel
unwanted boarders from its sloshing decks,
we stop our ears against the desperate cries
of those whose hopes have been already wrecked.
Pity, we tell ourselves, is the noble soul's
greatest seduction. Harden your soft heart
before it falters. Let what is falling fall.
For each imagines he is saved apart,
and does not know that he already treads
the ocean, which is rising above our heads.
Louis Hunt teaches political philosophy at James Madison College, Michigan State University. He has poems in The Rotary Dial, Autumn Sky Poetry, The Road Less Traveled, and Snakeskin.