Most of us are searching for what can heal our brokenness. We hurt. We cry out in pain. We ache with sorrow and grief and doubt. So we ply ourselves with medication, hoping to stitch back together our wounds. We seek advice, believing the professionals have the answers. We sit in our chosen houses of worship, praying for guidance.
Often, though, it is others we see suffering. We want to help, to reach out, to relieve some of their burdens. We offer words. We wrap them in hugs. We send out prayers. We deliver cakes and pies and chicken soup. How do we heal those we love?
A few years ago I found a scrumptious children’s book called This Is a Poem that Heals Fish. I had given it to a sweet, special girl, but then decided I also required the healing powers of this fable.
The story begins with Arthur thinking his fish Leon is dying of boredom. His mother tells him to give him a poem, but Arthur doesn’t understand. Wanting to heal his fish, Arthur goes on a journey, asking friends and family, “What is a poem?”
Arthur first stops at Lolo’s bike shop. Lolo “laughs all the time, and is always in love.”
He visits a bakery where his friend Mrs. Round tells him,
Still confused, Arthur asks his neighbor Mahmoud.
Worried about Leon’s heart, Arthur rushes home. He questions his bird Aristophanes.
Arthur’s grandmother comes to the house with jars of jam and her dog. When asked about a poem, she thinks.
She then tells him to ask his grandfather.
Arthur is still worried about Leon.
Leon hears Arthur’s words. He speaks for the first time and tells Arthur, “Then I am a poet.”
Through his journey, Arthur had discovered that both he and Leon were poets. The words were inside them all along.
All my life words have helped heal me. When I was a young girl, I escaped to my books full of brave children and wondrous adventures. I wrote my own words, filling dozens of notebooks. Later I taught stories to adolescents, hoping to share the beauty beating within the pages. Even now I seek solace in authors, often pausing at a gorgeous phrase, wondering at its opulence.
Most of us want to help. We search for answers. We want to take away our pain and the pain of those we love. Can we all be healed by a poem? But what really is a poem? It is a heartbeat. It is love. It is the sky. It is words. It is silence. It is warm bread. Life is poetry, and it can heal us if we begin to hear our own verses and then carefully, patiently, and thoughtfully begin to share them with others.
This Is a Poem That Heals Fish, text by Jean-Pierre Simeon, illustrations by Olivier Tallec, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick, published 2005 Rue du Monde, translated version 2007 Enchanted Lion Books, bought on Amazon $16.95.