Naomi Shihab Nye was one of my favorite poets back when I had to write essays about poets and how they influenced me. Writing those essays made me feel like writing poetry was a tragic waste of my time since these poets had said everything I could ever think to say except smarter and more filled with aching loveliness. As thankless as working for a grassroots non-profit can feel, it is nice to feel needed. Poetry doesn’t need me; no one needs my poetry. Sometimes when I hear bad poetry it makes me want to write a poem, but I generally channel that into quilts instead. Everyone needs a blanket.
I still like pulling up some of her words every now and then.
So Much Happiness
Naomi Shihab Nye
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of dust and noise
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.