Friday, January 13, 2012

Poem of the Week: Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

The Burn

Such a swift lump rises in the throat when

a uniformed woman spits Throw it away!

and you tremble to comply wondering why

rules of one airport don't match another's,

used to carrying two Ziploc bags not just one

but your pause causes a uniformed man to approach

barking, Is there something you don't understand?

and you stare at him thinking

So many things, refugees marching

from one parched field to another,

rolled packs on their heads,

burn of ancestors smoldering outside stolen homes,

or you could be six again, yelled at on the playground

by a teacher who knew all the bad things you could do.

You're pressing little shampoos and face creams

firmly into a single plastic bag, he could slap you.

Sorry, so sorry, not wanting

to give up seven extra bottles of Bliss brand

lemon & sage soapy soap fresh-foaming shower gel

that you tipped the W houseboy into leaving

so you could pretend you live a Happy Hour life

back home, you hope she takes it out of the trash

when you turn away, obviously she needs a relaxing shower

and a stiff gin and he needs something like a long trip

into a country full of foreign soldiers and we all need

to swallow hard again so the lumps dissolve

and pressure eases and our worlds mingle kindly

and he no longer feels the gun in his back.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

from Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011)
Used by permission.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011), You & Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), Fuel (1998), and Red Suitcase (1994). Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall prize, and the International Poetry Forum. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. She has written books for children and edited several anthologies of prose.

Shihab Nye will be reading at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, March 22-25, 2012. Join us!

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