Monday, February 11, 2013

Forgotten Words

The past few days in February is always a time of introspection for me. I avoid. Responsibilities. Duty. Those things are put aside. I polish off a novel in two days and ignore the laundry, the dinner, the pet hair piling up in the corners. I resurface for hugs or snuggles or requests for more Cheerios. I take the dog out for a walk in the 30 degree heat wave that's graced us. I share a grin with the fella I live with over something funny our 3 year old declared. But that's it. Only the matter-full emergent things soak through.

Blessedly, the fella gets this. He politely asks if I could switch some laundry or take the dog for a walk but he otherwise leaves me to my world of words, allowing me to absorb the ones I find needful.

My word path, this time, led me to a poem that I had read years ago...and saved because it mattered. I had forgotten about it until today. So I share it with you here...


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 a live.

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.

~Naomi Shihab Nye