R. Michael Rothbaum’s “Prayers for Workers in a Time of Pandemic”

Prayers for Workers in a Time of Pandemic
by R. Michael Rothbaum

Our God, and God of all Life,

We call you Oseh, Maker[1]

Yotzer, Crafter[2]

Poel, Worker.[3]

You, Who labored to build this world in which we live

Who calls us to be Po’alei Tzedek, workers of justice[4]

We call to you

Be with all those who labor in the midst of this global pandemic.

Shelter those who grow our food in the field.

Guard those who bring healing in lab and clinic, in hospital and pharmacy.

Guide in peace those who deliver basic needs by road, track, and air.

Uplift those bent low bearing loads in manufacturing and sanitation.

Send love to those who connect us through wire, wave, and cable.


Provide companionship to those who work in solitude,

ease to those who work in anguish,

safety to those who step into harm’s way,

dignity to all whose labor benefits us.


As they raise up their souls to grant us all life[5]

may we repay them in fairness and righteousness.

May our lawmakers and employers assure them a living wage,

health care and sick leave

education, documentation, citizenship

and the right to organize.


All the rights,

human and Divine

due to all beings

created in Your image.


And let us say: Amen


[1] Job 25:2

[2] Genesis 2:7

[3] Exodus 15:17

[4] Psalms 15:2

[5] Deuteronomy 24:15

R. Michael Rothbaum, “Prayers for Workers in a Time of Pandemic.” Posted by New England Jewish Labor Committee. Shared with the Humanities Institute by Deliana Garcia, Director of International Projects and Emerging Issues, Migrant Clinicians Network.

Lucille Clifton’s “blake”

Lucille Clifton has in mind here the visionary British Romantic poet William Blake (1957-1827).

by Lucille Clifton

saw them glittering in the trees,

their quills erect among the leaves,

angels everywhere. we need new words

for what this is, this hunger entering our

loneliness like birds, stunning our eyes into rays

of hope.  we need the flutter that can save

us, something that will swirl across the face

of what we have become and bring us grace.

back north, i sit again in my own home

dreaming of blake, searching the branches

for just one poem.

Lucille Clifton, “blake” from The Terrible Stories. BOA Editions Ltd, 1996. Suggested to the Humanities Institute by Professor Coleman Hutchinson, UT Department of English.

Gwendolyn Brooks’s “PAUL ROBESON”

Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem is about the great African-American singer and radical activist Paul Robeson (1898-1977). The last seven lines seem so right, right now. (PJB)

by Gwendolyn Brooks

That time

we all heard it,

cool and clear,

cutting across the hot grit of the day.

The major Voice.

The adult Voice

forgoing Rolling River,

forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge

and other symptoms of an old despond.

Warning, in music-words

devout and large,

that we are each other’s


we are each other’s


we are each other’s magnitude and bond.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “PAUL ROBESON” from Blacks. Third World Press, 1984. Shared with the Humanities Institute by Elizabeth Frye of Humanities Texas.

Eliza Rubenstein’s “I Am the Very Model of Effective Social Distancing”

Today’s poem is…a song adapted from Gilbert and Sullivan’s light-opera The Pirates of Penzance. The original is called “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.” Note that it should be sung very fast. The adaptation is by Eliza Rubenstein. (PJB)

“I Am the Very Model of Effective Social Distancing”
by Eliza Rubenstein

I am the very model of effective social distancing!
I listen to the experts on the topic of resistance-ing;
I know that brunch and yoga class aren’t nearly as imperative
As doing what I can to change the nation’s viral narrative.
I’m very well acquainted, too, with living solitarily
And confident that everyone can do it temporarily:
Go take a walk, or ride a bike, or dig into an unread book;
Avoid the bars and restaurants and carry out, or learn to cook.
There’s lots of stuff to watch online                                                               while keeping safe from the sinus ills
(In this case, it’s far better to enjoy your Netflix MINUS chills!)
Adopt a pet, compose a ballad, write some earnest doggerel,
And help demolish Trump before our next event inaugural.
Pandemics are alarming, but they are not insurmountable
If everybody pitches in to hold ourselves accountable.
In short, please do your part to practice prudent co-existence-ing,
And be the very model of effective social distancing!

Shared with the Humanities Institute by Professor Lisa Moore, UT Department of English