He had an itch that he couldn’t scratch.
It was driving him crazy.
Oh, he could reach it alright,
but it was in a spot he was afraid to touch.
So he let it itch, and throb and burn until it was an obsession-
as real as his nose in the mirror.
But no one else could see or feel his pain.
He wouldn’t let them see, thinking: “It’s my itch.”
“It belongs only to me.”
Then one day he saw a man-
a beggar on the street, ragged and sad,
and he wore his itch on his sleeve!
“Why!” mused the man, “He’s got my itch!”
“How can that be?”
With this, he had to admit
that nobody owns their own pain.
Pain is not a private itch
that we scratch with secret shame
but a public organism-
a common malady of the living.
This is why we were given fingers:
each, to scratch the other’s itch.
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