Let me peer out at the world…

“Let me peer out at the world through your lens. (Maybe I’ll shudder, or gasp, or tilt my head in a question.) Let me see how your blue is my turquoise and my orange is your gold. Suddenly binary stars, we have startling gravity. Let’s compare scintillation – let’s share starlight.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye

Every Day

My hundred year old next door neighbor told me:
Every day is a good day if you have it.
I had to think about that a minute.
She said, Every day is a present someone left at the table.
Trust me!  It may not feel like that
but it’s true.  When you’re my age
you’ll know.  Twelve is a treasure.
And it’s up to you
to unwrap the package gently,
lift out the gleaming hours
wrapped in tissue,
don’t miss the bottom of the box.
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

Song Book

Tiny keyboard bearing the massive reverie of the past–
press one button, we’re carried away on a country road,
marching with saints, leaving the Red River Valley…
here is every holiday you hated, every hard time,
each steamy summer wish.  You closed your eyes
in the wooden stairwell, leaning your  head against the wall,
knowing a bigger world loomed.  It’s still out there,
and it’s tucked in this keyboard too,
now we are an organ, now we are an oboe,
now we are young or ancient,
now we are smelling wallpaper in the house
our grandfather sold with every cabinet,
table and doily included,
but we are still adrift, floating,
thrum-full of longing layers of sound.
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

Hidden

If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
sigh
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.

 
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

Daily

These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
 
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

 
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

 
~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

What Is Supposed To Happen

When you were small,
we watched you sleeping,
waves of breath
filling your chest.
Sometimes we hid behind
the wall of baby, soft cradle
of baby needs.
I loved carrying you between
my own body and the world.

Now you are sharpening pencils,
entering the forest of
lunch boxes, little desks.
People I never saw before
call out your name
and you wave.

This loss I feel,
this shrinking,
as your field of roses
grows and grows…

Now I understand history.
Now I understand my mother’s
ancient eyes.

~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~

So Much Happiness

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

~~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~~