The trick is that you're willing to help them. The rule is to sound like you're doing them a favor. The rule is to create a commission system. The trick is to get their number. The trick is to make it personal: No one in the world suffers like you. The trick is that you're providing a service. The rule is to keep the conversation going. The rule is their parents were foolish, their children are greedy or insane. The rule is to make them feel they've come too late. The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions. The rule is to assume their parents abused them. The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved. And when they say "too much," give them a plan. And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love," say "give me an example." The rule is everyone is a gypsy now. Everyone is searching for his tribe. The rule is you don't care if they ever find it. The trick is that they feel they can.
From Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa. Copyright © 2010 by Khaled Mattawa. Used by permission of New Issues Press.
The amazing thing is not
that geese can get sucked
into an Airbus engine
and cause it to conk out
or that a pilot can tell air
traffic control, “There’s only
one thing I can do,”
then take a deep breath
and do it—ditch
in the Hudson with a buck
and whine, then walk
the aisle as the plane fills
with water to make sure
everyone’s gotten out—
but that afterwards
many who weren’t hurt
in a lifelong way, only
shaken, scratched, no doubt
in shock, had nothing else
to do, finally, except take a bus
back to LaGuardia and
catch another plane home.
Amazing too how
before long people stop
talking about it, they move on
and eventually need
an extra beat to recognize
that camera-shy pilot
when he appears—retired
now, somehow smaller
now, no longer shy—
as an air travel expert
just shouldn’t be
carried on”) on the nightly
news and connect
his name to what he did
that day, probably—
let’s face it—because
no one died.
Though most stories
like that. In Shanxi
Province, the BBC told me
late last night when
I should’ve been asleep
instead of sitting in the dark,
all men, they said, and some
much older than
I would’ve imagined—
in a mile-deep mineshaft
deemed too dangerous now
for a rescue, though
apparently it was safe
enough to work in. Shovel
clang and gravel rumble
turned to echoing
the company execs
sent down a slender
silver robot with tank
treads, tiny pincer hands,
a camera for a face,
but all it found—how long
it looked, they didn’t
say—was a single miner’s
and dusty, its frail light
Copyright @ 2014 by Matthew Thorburn. Used with permission of the author.
At the columbarium dug
by hand, a man points to where rock
doves would be brought to nest, their eggs
tended by priests, and the cave locked
at sundown, guarded by hired
knives. The flock meant meat for the dry
times; saltpeter; yolks needed to bind
portraits to walls, to raise a sky
gilded with violets and myrrh.
Tonight, my mother paints her nails
black—a shade she names, “Dark Matter.”
She numbers what’s left of her cells,
tells us of this burning inside
her knees, laughs a promise to fight.
Copyright © 2016 R. A. Villanueva. Used with permission of the author.
My dream lives close to my lungs.
Sometimes I feel it as a pen
spilling ink in the dark purse
of my breathing. My body
lives here in Colorado,
in an apartment with a few plants.
I am what the experts refer to
as history, a small totality
making its way to the future.
In the evening, I inherit death
as an idea, as a subject I’ll be tested on.
Mid-afternoons, I take long walks.
I live by myself as the state lives
by itself in borders it had nothing
to do with. I, too, have a river.
If you ask, I’ll tell you all about the light.
Copyright © 2016 by Carl Adamshick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.