Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Today’s poem was sent to us by Kerry Malloy.

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you.’ – Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

It’s a difficult thing to say why you are drawn to a work of art. It is for me at least. What happens as a creative endeavor makes the long journey from inspiration, to actualization, and then somehow – finally – to and through another human being is a complicated magic. Explaining it always seems to fall short.
I like this poem.
I think because it holds my loss, my struggles, and my failures inside it but whispers back all the while that they are right and they are good.
They are worth it, the fabric of becoming.
Maybe I like it because it was given to me by a soft quiet woman who I very much adore.
I can’t be sure.
But whether in my pocket or my mind, I carry this with me often.


image (3)
Photo by Lee Jeffries


Naomi Shihab Nye1952

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 gaze at 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.

National Poetry Month 

At Politics for the People


Do you have a favorite political poem that you would like to share? Is there an original poem you have written?  Please email me at with your suggestions for consideration.  


Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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