Why I love… Naomi Shihab Nye

Hidden

 

If you place a fern

under a stone

the next day it will be

nearly invisible

as if the stone has

swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one

under your tongue too long

without speaking it

it becomes blood

sigh

the little sucked-in breath of air

hiding everywhere

beneath your words.

No one sees

the fuel that feeds you.

San Antonio

Tonight I lingered over your name,

the delicate assembly of vowels

a voice inside my head.

You were sleeping when I arrived.

I stood by your bed

and watched the sheets rise gently.

I knew what slant of light

would make you turn over.

It was then I felt

the highways slide out of my hands.

I remembered the old men

in the west side cafe,

dealing dominoes like magical charms.

It was then I knew,

like a woman looking backward,

I could not leave you,

or find anyone I loved more.

Two Countries

Skin remembers how long the years grow

when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel

of singleness, feather lost from the tail

of a bird, swirling onto a step,

swept away by someone who never saw

it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,

slept by itself, knew how to raise a

see-you-later hand. But skin felt

it was never seen, never known as

a land on the map, nose like a city,

hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque

and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.

Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.

Love means you breathe in two countries.

And skin remembers–silk, spiny grass,

deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.

Even now, when skin is not alone,

it remembers being alone and thanks something larger

that there are travelers, that people go places

larger than themselves.

Making A Fist

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,

I felt the life sliding out of me,

a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.

I was seven, I lay in the car

watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.

My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”

I begged my mother.

We had been traveling for days.

With strange confidence she answered,

“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,

the borders we must cross separately,

stamped with our unanswerable woes.

I who did not die, who am still living,

still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,

clenching and opening one small hand.

The Rider

A boy told me

if he roller-skated fast enough

his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard

for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight

pedaling hard down King William Street

is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness

panting behind you on some street corner

while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,

pink petals that have never felt loneliness,

no matter how slowly they fell.

*Image: by Firooz Zahedi – Elizabeth Taylor in Iran 2976

Advertisements

One thought on “Why I love… Naomi Shihab Nye

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s