The Kindness of Others

The kindness of others
is all they ever wanted,
the laughter of neighbors
prospering in the blue light of summer.

Those of the small sputtering flame
and the sudden white sprung hair,
who feed off envy and grow old quickly,
desire largesse.

The role of poor relation
evokes a lack
they are not apt to admit,
or unbearable pity.

They prefer to penetrate the giver’s
effortless knack of giving
they perceive as vitality,
a pulsating entity

that rewards the kindness of others
tenfold.
This they have witnessed.
This they have tabulated relentlessly.

The generosity of others
whose spirits, like their long-legged
children blossoming into a progeny
of orchards and fields, flourish.

Those who have never known kindness
drag into the privacy of their smallness
the baskets of fruit
appearing year after year on their porches,

to be picked apart
in the hushed posture of thieves.
They peel skin, probe flesh
the color of honey

as if the seeds will yield something
other than a glimmer of sweet air
rising from the roots of trees
and licorice-laced, half-opened leaves.

Those of the small flame,
who feed off envy and grow old quickly,
live out their lives
hungry,

glaring at themselves across the table,
wife of the cruel mouth,
husband of the thin broth
trickling like spittle.

Cathy Song, “The Kindness of Others” from Poetry 186 (April 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Cathy Song. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2005)
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