Kindness

Today, a wise friend read this poem to a group I was with, unaware that she was actually reading it just for me.  As she read the poignant lines, I felt my heart-strings pull before tears I could not control, spilled out of my eyes, subsequently ruining my mascara.  Poet Naomi Shihab Nye has a message of kindness that perhaps will resonate with you too.  For this reason, I feel compelled to share it here.  For you.

Kindness  By Naomi Shihab Nye

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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

 

 

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Happiness Floats

Oh to be a poet… I love poets. I always have. I’m pretty sure it all started with Dr. Seuss, who made books and language fun for me. Although I still adore Dr. Seuss, my tastes have evolved from the days I would beg my Daddy to please please please read me Green Eggs and Ham just one more time. In my budding adolescence I recall discovering Edgar Allen Poe. His beautiful Annabell Lee, his raven, and his ever creepy tell-tale heart had me thinking that he was the coolest most clever writer ever! Even then I had a thing for the dark, shadow side of humanity. In high school, I came to appreciate Shakespeare’s stories of love, betrayal and life lessons though comedy and tragedy, which I can say mirror my own experiences in love and life. In college there was the whole coffee house scene complete with complaint rock and emo spoken word performances describing harrowing anguish and the ever calamitous state of our world as only youth from the 90’s could tell it. I found validation, solace, and amusement in Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Maya Angelou, ee cummings, T.S. Elliot, John Keats, Pablo Neruda, Rumi and others. But not all poets are from a time long before my own. Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Steven Patrick Morrissey, Jill Scott, Tori Amos, and Prince are a few more of my favorite word magicians. Profound, prolific, thought provoking and inspiring… This is why I love poets. They use words to translate love, pain, loss, joy, apathy and every sentiment really. They mix language and emotion and string together sentences that can deeply touch the human spirit.  Poets help us understand life the way only art can. To be a poet is to be able to experience life, and then write about it so that the rest of us can feel it.

This week I was given a poem written by Naomi Shihab Nye. I drank in this poem with a writer’s thrist. Its been with me since I read it a few days ago. I feel compelled to share it here. If I were a poet, I’d wish to write like Nye.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I expect you will.  Oh, and to all the poets out there, thank you for writing.

So Much Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.

With Sadness there is something to rub against, a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.

When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up, something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.

It doesn’t need you to hold it down.

It doesn’t need anything.

Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing, and disappears when it wants to.

You are happy either way.

Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house, and now live over a quarry of voice and dust, cannot make you unhappy.

Everything has a life of its own.

It too could wake up filled with possibilities of coffee cake and ripe peaches, and love even the floor which needs to be swept, the soiled linens and scratched records…

Since there is no place large enough to contain so much happiness, you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you, into everything you touch.

You are not responsible.

You take no credit,

as the night sky takes no credit for the moon, but continues to hold it,

and to share it, and in that way, be known.

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