The Progress of the Soul

Ray, David

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: May-18-1997


The poet has "grown quite good at ignoring" the suffering people who beg in the streets of India. "The beautiful legless girl," "the spider man," the babies with swollen bellies--he has learned to be almost blind to the poverty, disease and deformity that surrounds him. Or, at least, he pretends not to see, and then tries to sneak a photograph. He knows that if he tried to help these people, "next time / they would claw me to shreds."


This poem speaks of our ability to shield ourselves from the horror of human suffering. The poet knows that there are limits to his empathy, limits to his compassion. He is afraid of being overwhelmed, should he actually takes steps to remedy social injustice. Many or most of us have similar feelings--whether it be in India, Haiti, or even in New York City.

Primary Source

The Maharani's New Wall and Other Poems


Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Middletown, Conn.



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