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
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
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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye
a found a couple old books of poetry in a box that i haven’t seen since high school i’d forgotten how much they’d meant to me during that part of my life. here is one i read during “raw talent” at a little cafe in town many moons ago. you have no idea what a “hippie” i used to be. i’d like to think i still am a little. maybe one day i’ll show you my first car that my friend named “the grateful bean”… you have no idea. anyway, here is the poem that i loved enough to read in front of the world.
Even If I Could by C.K. Williams
Except for the little girl making faces behind me, and the rainbow behind her,
and the school and the truck, the only thing between you and infinity is me.
Which is why you cover your ears when I speak and why you’re always oozing around the edges,
clinging, trying to go by me. And except for my eyes and the back of my skull,
and then my hair, the wall, the concrete and the fire-cloud, except for them you would see God.
And that’s why rage howls in your arms like a baby and why I can’t move-
because of the thunder and the shadows merging like oil
and the smile gleaming through the petals.
Let me tell you how sick with loneliness I am. What can I do while the distance throbs
on my back like a hump, or say, with stars stinging me through the wheel?
You are before me, behind me things rattle their deaths out like paper.
The angels ride in their soft saddles:
except for them, I would come closer and go.
It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.
Apparently it’s National Poetry Day and this is one my favorites. I have a lot so maybe I’ll post another one later. What are yours?
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
(one of my very favorite poems)