seasonal words

From Benj Thomas

Yesterday in Mulligan books, I was reminded of this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, so appropriate for this time of year. I cannot read aloud the last stanza, even to myself, without tears.

I also want to say that I just watched Lars and the Real Girl. A very moving film, as well as improbably funny. Also good for the season. Mature teenagers will get it and like it.

And finally, I did my local shopping in spades the other day, when I bought at Dig Music a disk made by the Charles Ford Band, which is really Robben, Mark and Pat Ford, plus a few others. It is a wonderful disk, if you like lively blues (I do). Highly recommended.


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 with the breath of life.

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 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 it goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

–Naomi Shihab Nye


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