Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST April 6th 2020

Dear Participants,

We want to start by acknowledging that we all just experienced something very difficult. Despite our efforts to increase security over the last few days, obviously we were unsuccessful, and what we feared would happen, did. We share your horror and we need to extend apologies and solidarity in acknowledging the hateful act we experienced today. 

We will be pausing all of our upcoming sessions while we explore new options to make our meetings more secure. As we hope most of you know, creating the safest spaces possible is of utmost priority for us. We worry a lot about this new virtual world we find ourselves in now, and while we very much want to continue to do this work with you — we feel how vital it is in this moment — we also want to do it as securely as we can.

Please check back on our blog in the coming week with updates on our new course of action — rest assured we will be working to get back up and running, in some form, as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, although we had to cut the session short, we want to share the prompt we had planned on using following our discussion of this session’s text – “The Mailman” by Nazim Hikmet. The prompt was: “Write a letter you’d like to deliver.” When you can and if you wish, please take a few minutes to write to this prompt. We encourage you, as well, to post what you write below. 

The full text we read in our session is posted below. So many of you shared such wonderful things in response to the poem; we all looked to the different ways in which the mailman carries his messages of hope “in the bag of my heart,” “heaven is in my bag,” and “a mailman bears all manner of pain.” We also spoke about the presence of landscape as a place in which life occurs, and how everything seems to be packaged into this landscape. We discussed the sense of motion and travel (carrying news, crossing the Bering Strait), the different metaphors of what the mailman carries, both the political and the deeply personal dimensions of the poem as well as the construction of the city and the different perception from within and outside of it. Our participants pointed to the parallels between the challenges of the mailman and those of healthcare professionals delivering news to patients and families – a context that resonates with so many of us, especially during this difficult time. 

In our session today, we read about a mailman’s travels and deliveries. We are determined that our message and work continues to reach you.


The Narrative Medicine Team

The Mailman, Nazim Hikmet  from Hungarian travel notes
Author(s): NAZIM HIKMET, Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk
Source: The American Poetry Review, Vol. 23, No. 2 (MARCH/APRIL 1994), pp. 38-39
Published by: Old City Publishing, Inc.

Whether at dawn or in the middle of the night,
I've carried people news
– of other people, the world, and my country,
of trees, the birds and the beasts –
in the bag of my heart.
I've been a poet,
which is a kind of mailman.
As a child, I wanted to be a mailman,
not via poetry or anything
but literally – a real mail carrier.
In geography books and Jules Verne's novels
my colored pencils drew a thousand different pictures
of the same mailman– Nazim.
Here, I'm driving a dogsled
over ice,
canned goods and mail packets
glint in the Arctic twilight:
I'm crossing the Bering Strait.
Or here, under the shadow of heavy clouds on the steppe,
I'm handing out mail to soldiers and drinking kefir.
Or here, on the humming asphalt of a big city,
I bring only good news
and hope.
Or I'm in the desert, under the stars,
a little girl lies burning up with fever,
and there's a knock on the door at midnight:
The little girl opens her big blue eyes:
her father will come home from prison tomorrow.
I was the one who found that house in the snowstorm
and gave the neighbor girl the telegram.
As a child, I wanted to be a mailman.
But it's a difficult art in my Turkey.
In that beautiful country
a mailman bears all manner of pain in telegrams
and line on line of grief in letters.
As a child, I wanted to be a mailman.
I got my wish in Hungary at fifty.
Spring is in my bag, letters full of the Danube's shimmer,
the twitter of birds,
and the smell of fresh grass –
letters from the children of Budapest
to children in Moscow.
Heaven is in my bag . . .
One envelope
"Memet, Nazim Hikmet's son,
Back in Moscow I'll deliver the letters
to their addresses one by one.
Only Memet's letter I can't deliver
or even send.
Nazim's son,
highwaymen block the roads –
your letter can't get through.

15 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST April 6th 2020

  1. K

    Dear Zoombomber,

    Maybe you are the virus
    that plagues humanity. You are the illness,
    attacking at random, spewing hurtful
    nonsense. You are a vector of senseless
    hurt, harbinger of malady and madness.
    On the day I finally mustered the voice
    to speak in front of strangers,
    you swooped in, casually seizing the space it took a week
    to allow myself to take up.
    You are the infection lurking unseen,
    omnipresent; you entered like a Trojan Horse.
    Who is friend and who is disease?
    There is nothing sacred here.
    There is nothing safe.

    Maybe you are the face of humanity,
    some cruel part of us brought out in
    the worst throes of despair.
    Maybe you hoard toilet paper.
    Maybe you found no lower places to sink,
    surfacing instead in some remaining bubble of tenderness,
    popping the word “lesbian” as if it were profanity,
    brandishing racism like a fat crayon. You carelessly scribble
    symbols of hate on our video screens, while elsewhere,
    boarded up storefronts are graffitied with faces of heroes.
    You never fail to remind us there is pettiness
    in the face of hope.

    maybe you are the little boy
    who’s learnt all the wrong places to poke his mother
    just to hear a reaction, who’s learnt to equate
    attention for love, angry voices
    for praise. You parrot swear words
    that you do not understand, pretending to speak
    the language of grown-ups and at school,
    you wait for the day the quiet girl raises her hand
    to snatch away her safety
    as your own.

    Liked by 5 people

    • al3793

      I am very moved by this piece, moved by its disturbance and by the courage to be presented. I have pondered it for several hours.

      I hear many nouns of menace…virus, plague, vector, hurt, harbinger, malady, madness, infection, disease, despair, low places, hate, boarded storefronts, graffiti, pettiness, fail , wrong places


      Verbs that make me want to look over my shoulder…plagues, spewing, attacking, swooped, seizing, lurking, surfacing, sink, brandishing, scribble, poke, snatch…

      and I see a damaged little boy who mistakes…

      attention for love…angry voices for praise…words he did not understood…pretending…waiting for the day, not knowing that he seeks certitude of love confused by rage…

      and I hear the voice of a someone brave who mustered courage to enter a space, supposedly safe, only to have that moment taken…

      and from that voice I also hear these words…


      Thank you for this piece. Andre


  2. Andre Lijoi

    Prompt: Write a letter you’d like to deliver…

    To my love,
    All my life I wanted to be a husband.
    In our land it’s not always easy to aspire to that.
    But now, ever more, I yearn for that
    for our days on Mountain Meadow Trail
    witnessing the emerging spring with a rainbow of buds
    of wildflowers, rivulets sparking as they split
    around tufts of brown grass turning green.
    Stars fill the mountain’s night sky.
    We watch great thunderheads hug the
    peaks of the Holy Cross alighted by bolts of lightning but
    the sun’s rays stay on our side of the range.

    Time together, just being
    no longer daunted by a journey of ascent
    wise foolishness
    facing together an
    uncertain future
    in love.

    [i had written the salutation prior to the intrusion into the session. I had considered a different letter, but was compelled to finish this one.]

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Michele Luckenbaugh

    A letter to be delivered…

    Maria had worked hard her entire life, for her family and for those who were lucky enough to call her a friend. That was the Italian way! She was said to be the matriarch of her little neighborhood. Friends were always dropping in to catch up on the news of the day and to share a cup of coffee and a homemade sweet treat, like Maria’s tiramisu.
    “She would give you the shirt off her back”, said everyone who knew Maria. Maria did not have any children of her own, but Sarah, the little girl who lived 3 doors down the street, thought of Maria as her “Grandma “. And Maria was quite content and pleased with that title. The two of them would spend time together playing board games or weeding Maria’s flower beds which brought a splash of vibrant color to the neighborhood. It was a labor of love Maria always said.
    But a time came when Sarah didn’t come around to visit. Maria found out that Sarah had become seriously ill and had to be hospitalized. Sarah’s mom would have a difficult time paying the medical bills since she was raising Sarah on her own. Maria set to thinking about how she could be of help. It seemed that she recalled seeing an ad in the “Sunday News” about a recipe contest where the top prize was $10,000! That sure would help out. What if she would enter her tiramisu recipe that everyone seemed to love. If she were to win, the prize money certainly would help out Sarah and her mom. And so Maria neatly copied her recipe onto her fanciest stationery, making sure no details were left out. She placed it in an envelope, kissed it for good luck, and off it went in the mail. With a hope and a prayer, Maria thought, this plan might work out.
    Days came and went. Sarah recovered and was finally allowed to come home. Maria made several visits with Sarah and her mom, but never let on about the recipe contest. To say anything might jinx it, she thought.
    On a sunny Spring morning, the doorbell rang loudly at Maria’s home. It was John, the mailman, with a special delivery letter for Maria. Could it be? Maria was about to burst! She held her breath and she tore open the very official-looking envelope. She saw in big bold letters, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE OUR GRAND PRIZE WINNER!
    Maria ran out her front door and raced to Sarah’s house to deliver the great news! Sarah’s mom was dumb- founded by Maria’s generosity and act of kindness. All three kissed and hugged and shed tears of joy. Maria finally had a family of her own!

    Postscript: Yes, I will agree this is a fairy tale type of story but isn’t it what we all need right now during these trying times? There is goodness in the world and there are, indeed, good people in the world whose deeds and actions drown out the fanatics of this world. Our health care professionals are sacrificing their own well- being to help those who are suffering from the invisible enemy. Hopefully, the lessons learned during these trying times will serve us well when we come out to the other side, which we will!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andre Lijoi

      Your mailman certainly had a letter from a heart filled mailbag and Maria’s act of self donation is a counter force to the acts of the intruder into our session. I felt this sense of deliberate intent on Maria’s part as if compelled to do something to help Sarah and her family and that doing something to help was her only motivation, what was important. I like how you found a parallel between Maria’s good works with those on the front line of the SARS-2 CoV-19 pandemic. We are up against and equally daunting intruder. Fortunately, Health Caring Professionals carry a lot of heart in their bags. Thank you. Andre

      Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      Your mailman certainly had a letter from a heart filled mailbag and Maria’s act of self donatoin is a counterforce to the acts of the intruder into our session. I felt this sense of deliberate intent on Maria’s part as if compelled to do something to help Sarah and her family and that doing something to help was her only motivation, what was important.


      • al3793

        PS: Fortunately, the Health Caring Professionals on the front line have a lot of heart in their bags of caring.


  4. “Write a letter you’d like to deliver”…(Jennifer Takhar)

    Dear Mum,
    I think of you every day and the kind of life you lead in a British care home that I cannot visit because of the lockdown. Are you eating well? Is the food easy to chew? Remember when they made ‘fresh’ fish and chips that were impossible to chew on? At least the tapioca was manageable. I cannot extol the virtues of ‘care home food’ but you told me you liked it and I believed you. You may not remember these details, these quintessential English meals, but I do, as the carrier of your memories. Vascular dementia has robbed you of recall but you have not forgotten who I am. I live far away and you need to know that you are with us at every moment of the day; When we read “Worzel Gummidge” about the scarecrow who can come to life and the mysterious “Iron Man”, his origins so obscure, my children look up to me and I imagine you, the one who bought me all the books I ever wanted, letting me inhabit alternative worlds when real life got distasteful.

    I’ll keep this message short as domestic duties beckon. More messages will follow and I will maintain your memories. Love, J et al.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michele Luckenbaugh

    I hope a second posting is allowed- since many on this site are involved in healthcare this is a letter I would send to each of you~~

    For the Courageous
    You go about your work in a humble way.
    Masked, we know not your identity.
    Facing the enemy, each and every day.
    Lives are at stake.
    You are there.
    All are at risk,
    Young, old – no one is safe.
    You enter the battle, sometimes without armor,
    Only your courage and your skills to ward off the enemy.
    Hours are endless, looking to each other for support.
    A smile, a high 5, a dance to lift the spirit.
    We, your patients, owe you our gratitude, our support
    For all you do.
    You put your life on hold so that others might live,
    Risking your life to save others.
    As we move past this time,
    We will not forget your sacrifice,
    Not forget your compassion,
    Not forget your dedication.
    May you walk tall and take heart.
    You will beat the enemy!
    Michele Luckenbaugh

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Michele! Second postings are absolutely fine, and thank you for this wonderful message of support– the use of the mask is such a multilayered and complex image here as well, showing both the literal need for masks in this healthcare response, but also touching on the impact these masks have on our identity in interpersonal situations of care, as well as the larger theme and idea of the group of first responders, where we as individuals will not be able to know all of those who have risked their lives to care for others in this crisis.


  6. Pingback: Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EST April 13th 2020 | Connections in Narrative Medicine

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