A lot more malaise and a little more grief every day,
aware that all seasons, the stormy, the sunlit, are brief every day.
I don’t know the name of the hundredth drowned child, just the names
of the oligarchs trampling the green, eating beef every day,
while luminous creatures flick, stymied, above and around
the plastic detritus that’s piling up over the reef every day.
A tiny white cup of black coffee in afternoon shade,
while an oud or a sax plays brings breath and relief every day.
Another beginning, no useful conclusion in sight‚—
another first draft that I tear out and add to the sheaf every day.
One name, three-in-one, ninety-nine, or a matrix of tales
that are one story only, well-springs of belief every day.
But I wake before dawn to read news that arrived overnight
on a minuscule screen , and exclaim يا لطيف every day.
Copyright © 2020 by Marilyn Hacker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2020 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.
Skin remembers how long the years grow when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel of singleness, feather lost from the tail of a bird, swirling onto a step, swept away by someone who never saw it was a feather. Skin ate, walked, slept by itself, knew how to raise a see-you-later hand. But skin felt it was never seen, never known as a land on the map, nose like a city, hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope. Skin had hope, that's what skin does. Heals over the scarred place, makes a road. Love means you breathe in two countries. And skin remembers--silk, spiny grass, deep in the pocket that is skin's secret own. Even now, when skin is not alone, it remembers being alone and thanks something larger that there are travelers, that people go places larger than themselves.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.
Three crates of Private Eye Lettuce, the name and drawing of a detective with magnifying glass on the sides of the crates of lettuce, form a great cross in man's imagination and his desire to name the objects of this world. I think I'll call this place Golgotha and have some salad for dinner.
From The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan, published by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright © 1989 by Richard Brautigan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.