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 gaze at 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.
— Naomi Shihab Nye
Is the woman in the pool of light
really reading or just staring
at what is written
Is the man walking in the soft rain
naked or is it the rain
that makes his shirt transparent
The boy in the iron cot
is he asleep or still
fingering the springs underneath
Did you honestly believe
three lives could be complete
The bottle of green liquid
on the sill is it real
The bottle on the peeling sill
is it filled with green
Or is the liquid an illusion
How summer’s children turn
into fish and rain softens men
How the elements of summer
nights bid us to get down with each other
on the unplaned floor
And this feels painfully beautiful
whether or not
it will change the world one drop
— C. D. Wright
wider than one
natives in their
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
from the genuine
— Kay Ryan
The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us—
behind the stalls
at the farmer’s market
snow glinting in heaps,
a cardinal its chest
puffed out, bloodshod
above the piles of awnings,
you picking up a sweet potato
turning to me ‘This too?’—
query of tenderness
under the blown red wing.
Remember the brazen world?
Let’s find a room
with a window onto elms
strung with sunlight,
a cafe with polished cups,
darling coffee they call it,
may our bed be stoked
with fresh cut rosemary
and glinting thyme,
all herbs in due season
tucked under wild sheets:
fit for the conjugation of joy.
— Meena Alexander
Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
You live your life your way and leave me alone.
I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.
About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no
argument. They die, after all.
But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming
generosity, how can they write you out?
As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.
— Mary Oliver
“Syrian refugees go about their business in a refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan…”
Ropes on poles, jeans & shirts flapping in wind.
He sits on a giant bag of rice, head in hands.
Too much or too little, rips & bursts & furrows.
Something seared in a pan.
If you knew a mother, any mother, you would care
for mothers, yes? No.
What it is to be lonesome for stacked papers
on a desk, under glass globe,
brass vase with standing pencils,
How quickly urgencies of doing disappear.
And where is the child from the next apartment,
whose crying kept him awake
these last terrible months?
Where do you file this unknowing?
— Naomi Shihab Nye
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.
— Georgia Douglas Johnson