by Naomi Shihab Nye
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 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.