Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Haitian Artwork

Haitian Art; Artist Unknown

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.

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