It's Poetry Monday, and this week's suggested theme is "kindness."
Don't forget to check out Diane's and Delores' blogs for their poems; and feel free to leave a poem of any kind on any topic in the comments section at their blogs or at mine, or on your own (in which case, please leave us a link to your blog in the comments).
Kindness is a wonderful theme, dear to my heart, and I thought I would have no problem coming up with an original piece of writing on the topic.
Hoo boy. I was so very, very wrong. I just couldn't seem to do justice to what I feel is the most important quality - bar none - in a person. My words felt inadequate and weak for such an important concept.
I felt like I had the vocabulary of a five-year-old, when I need the vocabulary of an ancient, wizened, wise person. I admit to being wizened, but one out of three wasn't enough.
I felt like anything I could say was inadequate and repetitious and shallow.
So I did what I generally do when I can't write my own poem; I go looking for what other people have written, using Google search.
I struck it lucky with the following poem. The author is the daughter of an American mother and a Palestinian father. You can read more about her HERE. In the video below the poem, the author explains how she came to write it, which helps to put the piece in context. Even before I heard her story, though, the rich imagery she used appealed to me.
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 every where
like a shadow or a friend.
Thanks for reading, my kind friends.
Notes on the video, added August 1, 2017:
The author explains that she wrote the poem after she and her husband - one week into their honeymoon, travelling by bus in South America - were robbed of everything, and one person on that bus was murdered. She was understandably upset, but in the midst of those feelings, the poem came to her "from a female voice" and she wrote it down in pencil in a small notebook, one of the few things she had left. By the time she was finished, she had gathered herself enough to plan how to proceed with no money, passport or belongings. She also says that sometimes a person can write something they believe to be true, and grow into it - that we can write things that we may not understand fully but they can guide us in the future when we go back and read them again. Several times she stresses that she was only a conduit - "a secretary" for the poem - she felt it came to her from somewhere outside of herself.