Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Kind words

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

I came across this poem just when I needed it.  The poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye has an uncanny way of showing up at exactly the right moment and begs its reader to drop below the superficial. The child of a Palestinian father and an American mother, her poems speak a language deeper than culture, history or religion. Through the portal of the everyday - be it a grocery store, an olive press, the headlines - she prompts consideration of the most profound questions and revelations of the soul.  For me, poems like this are pure soul food. 

"I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. 
I love staring, pondering, mulling, pottering.  I love the times when someone or something is late - there's that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime... 
Poetry calls us to pause.  There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own."

Naomi Shihab Nye



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