I love this collection. It carries in its pages the beauty of fig trees and lemons, as well as the indigestible truth of olive pits.
The Arabs used to say
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he's come from,
where he's headed.
That way, he'll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you'll be
such good friends
you don't care.
Let's go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That's the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.
All Things Not Considered
You cannot stitch the breath
back into this boy.
A brother and sister were playing with toys
when their room exploded.
In what language
is this holy?
The Jewish boys in the cave
were skipping school, having an adventure.
Asel Asleh, Palestinian, age 17, believed in the field
beyond right and wrong where people come together
to talk. He kneeled to help someone else
stand up before he was shot.
If this is holy,
could we have some new religions please?
Mohammed al-Durra huddled against his father
in the street, terrified. The whole world saw him die.
An Arab father on crutches burying his 4 month girl weeps,
"I spit in the face of this ugly world."
Most of us would take our children over land.
We would walk the fields forever homeless
with our children,
huddle under cliffs, eat crumbs and berries,
to keep our children.
This is what we say from a distance
because we can say whatever we want.
No one was right.
Everyone was wrong.
What if they'd get together
and say that?
At a certain point
the flawed narrator wins.
People made mistakes for decades.
Everyone hurts in similar ways
at different times.
Some picked up guns because guns were given.
If they were holy it was okay to use guns.
Some picked up stones because they had them.
They had millions of them.
They might have picked up turnip roots
or olive pits.
Picking up things to throw and shoot:
at the same time people were studying history,
going to school.
The curl of a baby's graceful ear.
The calm of a bucket
waiting for water.
Orchards of the old Arab men
who knew each tree.
Jewish and Arab women
standing silently together.
Generations of black.
Are people the only holy land?
--Naomi Shihab Nye
from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye. Greenwillow, 2002.
(Note: when quoting poems online, always include a full citation for the collection from which the poem originated. If the poem is not in the public domain (i.e. is still in copyright) abide by the principle of Fair Dealing in your use of the work.)