Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday's poems: Naomi Shihab Nye

I am a huge fan of the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye which  appears regularly on this blog (previous posts are here).

Naomi Shihab Nye is a Arab- American poet who writes profound poetry about daily life and daily experience from the perspective of an Arab-American women who has lived in the US, in Ramallah in Jordan, in the Old City in Jerusalem, and in San Antonio, Texas.

Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Shihab Nye writes poetry that springs from an Arab heart living in America.

Naomi Shihab Nye
If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
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

the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.
No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

Naomi Shihab Nye

We thought of ourselves as people of culture.
How long will it be till others see us that way again?
Iraqi friend

In her first home each book had a light around it.
The voices of distant countries
floated in through open windows,

entering her soup and her mirror.
They slept with her in the same thick bed.

Someday she would go there.
Her voice, among all those voices.
In Iraq a book never had one owner – it had ten.
Lucky books, to be held often
and gently, by so many hands.

Later in American libraries she felt sad
for books no one ever checked out.

She lived in a country house beside a pond
and kept ducks, two male, one female.

She worried over the difficult relations of triangles.
One of the ducks often seemed depressed.
But not the same one.

During the war between her two countries
she watched the ducks more than usual.
She stayed quiet with the ducks.
Some days they huddled among reeds
or floated together

She could not call her family in Basra
which had grown farther away than ever
nor could they call her. For nearly a year

she would not know who was alive,
who was dead.

The ducks were building a nest.

Naomi Shihab Nye

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
n this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
Overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.

Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.
Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

Naomi Shihab Nye

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