Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness


Naomi Shihab Nye

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye points out that it is easy to be kind when life is kind to you. In this wonderful poem form her book, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, she beautifully expresses how we can—how we must—find refuge, hope and joy in kindness even as darkness threatens to swallows us whole.


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 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.

Click here to see all my posts featuring poets.

Click here to view all my posts on the transcendent power of kindness.

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4 Responses to “Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness”

  1. Ian Whitney (Janet Gilbert) Says:

    A beautiful idea…thank you!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re quite welcome, IW (JG)!

  3. mahmoud Says:

    Hello, I really feel attracted to Poet Naomi not for the mutual race-as Palestinians- but because she reflects Arabs’ very important influence on the contemporary American literature and of equal importance is her smooth easy style in writing; I really adore all your poems and I hope all progress for you. my regards

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for your nice comment, mahmoud. I hope you visit again!

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