hearts grieve poetry how can i say this

Ep45: Poetry to Grieve By

Today is Friday, August 9, 2019, and it’s been a rough week. I’ve found that I haven’t had much to say. The news and its tragedies have overwhelmed me, as they have the world. For a podcast about how to say it, whatever “it” is, I’m finding myself at a loss. I’m not even sure I have a key question for this episode, except wondering what we can do when words fail us.

This is a rather short episode, because I’m still feeling in shock from the mass shootings that happened in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, OH on August 3rd and 4th. When I can’t find words, I turn to the words of others. Two poems by Naomi Shihab Nye and Lucille Clifton have provided me solace and centeredness, and in sharing them here, I hope they have the same affect on you.

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Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952-

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.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Source: https://poets.org/poem/kindness

let there be new flowering

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

“Let there be new flowering” from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1987. Source: Poetry Society of America