Only Kindness

Poet/Lyricist: 

Naomi Shihab Nye
Beautiful, heartfelt setting of Nye's poem which nudges us to put ourselves in another's shoes. Nye invites us to truly see what it is like to see ourselves as someone else - "you must see this could be you..." she says, referring to the man just shot outside the bus she was traveling in. She tells us that it is only when we lose things, that we can know "the tender gravity of kindness." Then, and only then, "..it is "kindness that ties our shoes and sends us out into the day..."

Commissioned by: 

CorVoce

Premiere: 

May 28-29, 2020

Level: 

Moderate
Item Voicing Media Price
HSP-123-01 SATB a cappella $2.25

Text:

Kindness

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.

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