This weeks Saturday Poetry, matched with mobile photography/art is entitled ‘Kindness’ by Naomi Shihab Nye. It is a poem that I often return too, especially when I have inadvertently brushed up against the harshness of this world. It is beautiful poetry and one of my favourites, it reminds us of what we already know. It starts ‘before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth‘. I know what that feels like and makes my stake in kindness of the highest value. The third paragraph begins ‘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‘. Sadly I know this too, is it true that only people who have experienced this know what kindness is? I think so. It is so easy to be kind, it costs nothing and it is possible to scatter it all around, like a gift, spreading happiness as you go. The poem ends with ‘… 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‘. Keep it close.
This poem was created by Naomi Shihab Nye she was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her BA in English and world religions from Trinity University.
Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”
I have matched Jennifer Graham – @ja_graham’s image with this poem, entitled “Our bodies are the canvas of our emotions, and most often, we let the world paint it”. You can follow her work on Instagram here.
If you would like to be featured in our Saturday Poetry section, please ensure you include the hashtag #theappwhisperer to any images posted to Instagram. This will mean we will be able to consider it.
To view the others we have published in this section, go here.
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952 –
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.
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