People who have been reading the poem of the week on this blog for years now must think, seeing this week’s selection, Wow, does this woman love Naomi Shihab Nye. And they would be right. Sometimes, walking down the street, I recite lines from her poems, maybe because they’re beautiful, maybe because they make me feel less alone, maybe because they remind me, always, that kindness is all that matters. At a restaurant a couple of weeks ago, a friend said to me, “I read a poem today that I think you would love. It’s by a woman named Naomi something”–and I said, “Naomi Shihab Nye!” Once, a couple of years ago, I saw a tiny notice in the paper that she was giving a talk that very night at a school near me –she lives in Texas and this was in Minneapolis– so I zipped right over. The talk was in a high school classroom and I sat in a chair in the front row. And afterward I asked if she minded a photo. So that’s me, with Naomi my hero, and this concludes my Naomi Shihab Nye story in favor of her beautiful poem, of which I love this line most of all: Each carries a tender spot: Something our lives forgot to give us.
Jerusalem, by Naomi Shihab Nye
“Let’s be the same wound if we must bleed.
Let’s fight side by side, even if the enemy
is ourselves: I am yours, you are mine.”
—Tommy Olofsson, Sweden
I’m not interested in
who suffered the most.
I’m interested in
people getting over it.
Once when my father was a boy
a stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddle: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother’s doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Later his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.
Each carries a tender spot:
something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
“I am native now.”
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child’s poem says,
“I don’t like wars,
they end up with monuments.”
He’s painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.
Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
There’s a place in my brain
where hate won’t grow.
I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.
It’s late but everything comes next.
For more information on Naomi Shihab Nye, please click here.