Poetry helps us imagine one another's lives. It gives us intimate insights into someone else’s experience. To be able to have that kind of insight in 30 seconds or three minutes is a very precious kind of transmission. We're surrounded by talk and language and reporting and stories of a certain kind. The breaking news kind, but I think we hunger for another kind of story. The story that helps us feel connected to one another. Be with one another. A slower kind of empathy. I think we're hungry for that now more than ever. -Naomi Shihab Nye
Carrie Newcomer is a songwriter, recording artist, performer, educator, and activist. She has published three books of poetry and essays, in addition to 19 music recordings. In September 2021, she released an album with a companion book of poems, titled Until Now. Carrie lives in the wooded hills of South-Central IN with her husband and two shaggy rescue dogs.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. We've I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Carrie, what poems have you brought for us?
What You Won't Hear on Cable News
I want to tell you what you won't hear on cable news. About a young woman in an airport who was so exhausted and harried by hours of delay and wrangling an overtired toddler that when her little boy finally and completely melted down and planted himself on the floor, she sat down beside him and started to cry.
I want to tell you about the five random women who immediately flowed in from all directions.
One pulled out a little toy from her purse, one offered a snack or to go get something to drink.
One who called the child “honey” and wiped his nose with a tissue and offered another one to the grateful mother. And the one who asked if it was alright to walk hand in hand with the child right there at the gate, close by and always in sight.
I want to tell you about a man who makes soup and bread and then give it away.
And the nurse who held his hand when he was breathless and afraid.
I want to tell you about my neighbor who drives around all winter with snow chains in his car, just in case someone needs help.
I want to tell you about all the people I meet who keep extending themselves and braving the risk of being told it's none of their business.
Who offer a hand or a bit of encouragement or a couple of bucks, or to walk a fussy child around the gate because it's the kind thing to do.
I want to tell you the world still turns every single day on an axis of goodness and unexpected grace
That shows up without fanfare and often where we least expect to find it.
I'm Learning to Sit with Not Knowing
I'm learning to sit with not knowing even when my restless mind begins jumping from a worried “what next” to a frightened “what if” to a hard edge and impatient, “why aren't you already there?”
I'm learning to sit and listen.
To pat myself on the knee, lay my hand on my heart and take a deep breath.
And laugh at myself to befriend my mistakes, especially the ones that show me how I most need to change.
I'm learning to sit with whatever comes, even though I'm a planner, because so much of this life can't be measured or predicted.
Because wonder and suffering visit when we least expect, and rarely in equal measure.
I'm learning to sit.
With what I might never know, might never learn, might never heal.
I'm learning to sit with what might waltz in and surprise me. Might crash into my days with unspeakable sorrow or uncontainable delight.
I am learning to sit.
With not knowing.
You've been listening to the poems of Carrie Newcomer on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.