Sunday, August 29, 2010

poem of the week


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 every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time to start a new school year with the traditional poem of the week.

The Edge

One day the kid showed up with a tattoo of a stapler
on his shoulder. The others had tattoos of geckos
and fish and the Incredible Hulk, an emerald
Lou Ferigno against a background of fire. He'd
have been beaten up except they were dazed by it,
not just the precise cursive of the word “Swingline”
or the luster of the striking plate but the fact
of the stapler itself. He got the last pizza
at lunch and was touched on the wrist by a girl
at the fountain. This made him believe he was real
in a way breathing never had. Over the next
few months he stopped feeling he lived
on the wrong side of the mirror. There
was an election & his name was penciled in
on a few ballots. The guy with the red Camaro
gave him a ride home and let him pick the music.
In second period French he stood to ask
what Harcourt Brace knew all men wanted to know,
if Monique and Evette would join him Saturday
on the sailboat. First the teacher cried,
then the students sang the Marseillaise
because in four years all he'd ever said
was como tallez vous? No one questioned the tattoo.
Who'd believe he got up to pee and it was there,
just as the image of the body of Christ
appeared one morning on the thigh
of St. Barthelme of Flours. Otherwise
their stories differ. St. Barthelme was stoned
to death. The kid went to homecoming in a tux
with blue cumulus cuffs and a girl
embarrassed by anything but the slowest dance.

Bob Hicok
The Iowa Review
Volume 32, Number 1
Spring 2002

Copyright (c) 2002 by the University of Iowa.