Two great Poems today- With a Highlight on Palestinian American Poet, Naomi Shihab Nye
I periodically turn to poets from my heritage and am always reminded and delighted by the deep roots we have as Palestinian’s in the art forms of Spoken Word, Storytelling and Poetry.
Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. She earned her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio. Nye is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work, including the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Book Critics Circle, the Lavan Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Carity Randall Prize, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry award, the Robert Creeley Prize, and many Pushcart Prizes. She has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and she was a Witter Bynner Fellow. From 2010 to 2015 she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2018 she was awarded the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters. Nye is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate. ( poetryfoundation.org )
“A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.
In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.
Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.
Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.
I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Blood” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)
You don’t feel at home in your country,
All the simple things
you cared about,
maybe took for granted. . .
Almost as if you’re not there?
But you’re there.
Where before you mingled freely. . .
appreciated people who weren’t
just like you. . .
divisions grow stronger.
That’s what “chosen” and “unchosen” will do.
(Just keep your eyes on your houses and gardens.
Keep your eyes on that tree in bloom.)
Yes, a wall. Ours came later but. . .
who talks about how sad the land looks,
marked by a massive wall?
That’s not a normal shadow.
It’s something else looming over your lives.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “A Palestinian Might Say” from The Tiny Journalist. Copyright © 2019 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., http://www.boaeditions.org.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia