Friday, March 8, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye: 'a good year for the olive trees'

The poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye appears regularly on this blog (here).  Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and currently living in San Antonio Texas , Shihab Nye writes poetry that springs from an Arab heart living in America.

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. Shihab Nye currently lives in Texas but has spent her life moving between the US, Ramallah, Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas

Shiab Nye has edited and written and edited of 20 volumes of poetry and fiction. 

A recent interview with Naomi Shihab Nye can be found here. 
Olive Jar
By Naomi Shihab Nye

In the corner of every Arab kitchen,
        an enormous plastic container
of olives is waiting for another meal.
        Green tight-skinned olives,
planets with slightly pointed ends—
        after breakfast, lunch, each plate
hosts a pyramid of pits in one corner.
        Hands cross in the center
of the table over the olive bowl.
        If there are any left they go back to
the olive jar to soak again with sliced lemon and oil.
        Everyone says
it was a good year for the trees.

At the border an Israeli crossing-guard asked
        where I was going in Israel.
To the West Bank, I said. To a village of
        olives and almonds.
To see my people.

What kind of people? Arab people?

Uncles and aunts, grandmother, first and second
cousins. Olive-gatherers.

Do you plan to speak with anyone? he said.
        His voice was harder
and harder, bitten between the teeth.

I wanted to say, No, I have come all this way
        for a silent reunion.
But he held my passport in his hands.
Yes, I said, We will talk a little bit. Families and
my father's preference in shoes, our grandmother's
love for sweaters.
We will share steaming glasses of tea,
the sweetness filling our throats.
Someone will laugh long and loosely,
so tears cloud my voice: O space of ocean waves,
how long you tumble between us, how little you

We will eat cabbage rolls, rice with sugar and milk,
crisply sizzled eggplant. When the olives come
        sailing past
in their little white boat, we will line them
        on our plates
like punctuation. What do governments have to do
with such pleasure? Question mark.
YES I love you! Swooping exclamation.
Or the indelible thesis statement:
        it is with great dignity
we press you to our lips.
Naomi Shihab Nye, from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins. 2005.

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