A Story about the Body


Hass, Robert


Short Story


Robert Hass is an American poet who served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995-1997. In his short parable, "A Story about the Body," a young composer falls in love with an older painter and later discovers that she's had a double mastectomy and lost both of her breasts. Hass' story elicits questions about compassion, disability, care and how we respond to the challenges and needs of others.

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Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Ability and DisabilityConnection and RelationshipHealth and HealingLove and CompassionPoverty and Need

Big Questions

What assumptions do we make about people who are disabled or able-bodied?What does empathy look like?What prevents us from being compassionate?How do we know what someone needs?How do we recognize need?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do we know about the composer? What do we not know?
  2. What we know about the older Japanese painter? What do we not know?
  3. Why does the composer say, "I'm sorry. I don't think I could?"
  4. What do you make of the final image, the bowl of rose petals with dead bees underneath?
  5. What would a more compassionate response to the news of the artist's double mastectomy look like?
  6. What, in your own community or work, keeps you from responding compassionately to others?
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