The Task The Wish Part II
a poem by Michael Kleber-Diggs

art by Allegra Lockstadt

Continuing the invitation to be tender from The Task The Wish in 2020, Michael reflects on the same word in 2024.



To be tenderto hold out

to stretch, hold forth, to offer
or present formally 

                                                 for acceptance.

To become tender—to be

affected with pity, to grow
soft, to soften, to render gentle

or compassionate…

                                                 Where are you tender?

Are you like me, 

like I try to be, have tried to be,

tender only in certain places, 

certain ways?


I feel the work of my life

is to find a way to love

what I love fully, 

no holding back, no faking it,

to love past the fear that what I love

will disappear [again] leave me

devastated [again].

                                                 For years

I thought I had a way. I tried

to love what I could love enough

that it would always stay,

but not so much that if it went 

away, if it disappeared, it would 

destroy me, like it did

the first time I lost what

I loved and wanted to hold


                                                 We are

                                                 wired for protection; 

we have an instinct for 

survival; and we survive 

by fear of what


                                                 cause us pain—

that kind of cat, 

that lovely berry, 

and those particular 


                                                 It took me years 

to realize love is not 

a hot stove, so love is 

not an option. And 

avoiding love

even a little, well
that does not work— 

stretch, hold forth, offer.

There is no protection 

in love. In love we are

made tender—that is

how it works, actually—

the only way

it works.           

                                                 We are left 

with two choices:

to resist or 


to choose fear or 

grow tender, 

                     to be 


                but unprotected,

more reliant 

                    on soft

things, soft people

to capture us

should we fall, 

as we will, as we

must in this

world, in this 

life, in our


as we are, as we

have to be, be-

cause there is

no other

way to be

made except

to be made 

more tender.