Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris
MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM
Oh yes, how vulnerable you are, my past self writing to me, a postcard I rediscovered on my desk today. I can feel your heart knocking around in your chest, I said.
The universe rarely lets us in on its plans, I told S. in another postcard.
And another, to K. this time: Lean into the discomfort anyway.
I remember buying a sandwich from a small stall, the man handing bread to me with a smile. I remember a woman tapping me on the shoulder saying, I like your dress. I remember someone pouring me another cup of coffee and asking me if I like warm milk to go with it.
These postcards—perhaps I was saving myself then. Perhaps now, too: There’s space for you here, in this world. This universe. Love, yourself.
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
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This poem appeared in Bonfire Opera by Danusha Laméris, published by University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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