Ginger called me from the Festival of Homiletics today after hearing Craig Barnes because she wanted to pass along something he said (and I’m writing it as I remember it, not as a direct quote): “Preachers are ‘minor poets,’ which is to say they speak a particular truth to a particular people.” The point is not to speak to everyone in the world, but to speak a truth that will matter to those in the room with you. His definition of “minor poet” led me to some poetry reading of my own before I go to work at the restaurant for the evening.
Once again, 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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
The only thing I would say to Barnes, other than, “Nice work,” is whether major or minor, it seems to me poets find far-reaching truths by revealing what they see in the small world in front of their faces. Though kindness may change the world, for instance, we begin by remembering it ties our shoes.
And gives me grace to find meaning in the evening that lies in front of me.