There is a Nakedness in Kindness
Looking upon legends,
That all the great people
were, and will be, judged by shopkeepers,
the President cracked jokes
as clumps of increasingly-white hair
fell on the checkered floor,
That the butcher might say the novelist
seemed lost in charmed thought
after glancing at the suckling pig,
That the cashier might insist
the musician was rude.
And all these daily dealings
form a different kind of repute,
of equal (or greater) importance.
Kindness! Small and careful kindness;
In that, we find our saving grace.
But in this era, people
restrain their own impressions:
There is a nakedness in kindness!
And perhaps expectation put it there.
If not the expectation of reciprocity,
then the expectation of that expectation!
so the woman half-wonders
if kind words are veiled flirtations,
The man questions the motives
of another’s brotherly remark.
Has kindness become a vulnerability?
Poet’s Notes: The poem began with its title: “There is a Nakedness in Kindness.” This is simply a thought that occurred to me while I was running errands. I asked my own mind what it meant by that, and this poem was a way of finding my answer.
In the first draft, stanza 1 contained more examples of “daily dealings,” but I whittled it down to its current form. It would have been nice to reduce the poem even further and to give certain lines a more artful ambiguity. However, I felt the need to express several interrelated ideas, and so I needed the extra words and this directness of tone. I hope that the poem sparks a conversation. For one, that would be thematically appropriate, but mainly I feel like there are even more points of view to be investigated here, when it comes to this recession of kindness, people’s comfort levels, and their reasons.