Poems from the May 22, 2016 Dharma Talk

The Little Duck
by Donald C. Babcock.

Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.

A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.

There is a great heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is a part of it.
He looks a little like a mandarin,

Or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.

He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.

Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.

And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.

He has made himself a part of the boundless,
by easing himself into it just where it touches him.
I like the little duck.

He doesn’t know much.
But he has religion.

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is
by Naomi Shihab Nye

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.