In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

HATRED : A SESTINA by Robert Friend



is wanting

to hurt

and its fulfillment


on someone’s grave.


Because the insult was grave,

I must repay hatred with hatred,

abandon all pleasure: the dancing,

the flirting, the wallowing wantings

of every day. How drab their fulfillment

when compared with the pleasure to hurt.


I plan to avenge the hurt

if it takes all my life to the grave.

Revenge is the deepest fulfillment.

I shall give myself to my hatred.

No means too mean shall be wanting

when the consummation is dancing.


I dream day and night of that dancing.

His death will not save him from hurt.

There’s more than a grave he’ll be wanting

when I get to dance on his grave,

whirling in an orgy of hatred,

stamping on his slab in fulfillment.


But if I am to enjoy that fulfillment

my thoughts must be spinning and dancing

endlessly.  What of my hatred’s

last rites: What shoes shall I wear to hurt

in?  What tune shall I dance to?  Grave

decisions. And how shall I get there? Wanting


answers to all these. What a desolation of wanting

that murders all other fulfillment.

I might as well be in my grave.

For under that frenzy of dancing

whose body’s writhing?  Whose heart’s mortally hurt?

I am the corpse of my hatred.


Dare I dig a grave for that hatred,

abandon abandonment there, the terrible wanting to hurt?

That thought itself is fulfillment. My heart, my heart begins dancing.



Copyright © Jean Shapiro Cantu. Reproduced here by kind permission.



Robert Friend (1913 – 1998 ) was an American poet and translator. I am grateful to Jean Cantu, his niece and copyright holder, for agreeing to his poem being published here at the same time as David Punter’s poem “Ballad of Refuge.” This last was featured on the website of the UK Poetry Society last year (see next post). David Punter is an English poet and teacher.

It seemed to me that the two poems address some urgent and connected issues of the present times and do so with equal authority and in a similar way. In each case, the poet reaches into a state of human being which is not necessarily his own, yet is in the inheritance of us all, in order to understand better, throw light upon, the world as it is happening. There is something courageously redemptive about both poems. Don’t blink. Only connect…

Is it possible for hatred to lie quietly in a grave ? Dare we ?

Here is a link to a version of the poem formatted as a little poster :  Hatred by Robert Friend

You can download the poster and print it out.