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.
If you can’t trust the monitors
Then why do they have the monitors
If you can’t trust the cars
Then why have the cars
If you can’t trust that I think you’re hot
Then why do you look so good
Turning me on that way that you do
If you can’t trust the people
Then why have the people
If you can’t trust the cards then why have the cards
If you can’t trust this room then why have the room
Why not just an open space
Where you can be naked and fascinating
If you can’t trust the milk in the bottles
Then why have the bottles
If you can’t trust the wine the song
Then why have the country
If you can’t trust the kangaroo
Then why go jumping
If you can’t trust the sky
Then why have the sky at all
What good the moon and stars
If you can’t trust the stars
Then why look out
Why not just sit in your room
It’s dark and safe anyway
If you can’t trust what’s dark and safe anyway
Then why even bother
Then why even be here at all
I don’t know
I just went and walked
But desire is hopeless
If you can’t trust the windowsill
Then why put the flowers there
Why not leave it bare
Oh I did
And then what
After a while
That old sun
It burned it green
And when I returned to the room
All I saw was green
Like grass but greener than
A halting hue of it
And I forgot the flowers
And I forgot you
If you can’t trust the daybreak
Then why have the daybreak
Why not sit
Let the night come
It won’t stop itself
From Milk. Copyright © 2018 by Dorothea Lasky. Used with the permission of Wave Books and the author.