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Darling

I was not going to post today, but I came across this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye and it resonated with me. She wrote about language’s paradoxical power and fragility. Even though we may use the same words, they each mean something different to each of us based on our culture, history, and personal experiences. We have to be mindful and attentive to our use of language. It speaks to our character in the story we narrate through the words we choose and share with others.

Language possesses the power to bridge differences. The fragility lies in the idea that we can only hope language bridges differences.

The opening lines remind me of the  etymological roots of companion, meaning to break bread with others on a journey, but, in this instance, it is a fragile journey. The food and tea do not taste quite right under the circumstances.

The last stanza speaks about holding words delicately and pressing our lips on each syllable as we are kissing them, hence the title of the poem.

I break this toast for the ghost of bread in Lebanon.
The split stone, the toppled doorway.

Someone’s kettle has been crushed.
Someone’s sister has a gash above her right eye.

And now our tea has trouble being sweet.
A strawberry softens, turns musty,

overnight each apple grows a bruise.
I tie both shoes on Lebanon’s feet.

All day the sky in Texas which has seen no rain since June
is raining Lebanese mountains, Lebanese trees.

What if the air grew damp with the names of mothers,
the clear belled voices of first-graders

pinned to the map of Lebanon like a shield?
When I visited the camp of the opposition

near the lonely Golan, looking northward toward
Syria and Lebanon, a vine was springing pinkly from a tin can

and a woman with generous hips like my mother’s
said Follow me.

2

Someone was there.
Someone not there now was standing.
Someone in the wrong place
with a small moon-shaped scar on his left cheek
and a boy by the hand.

Who had just drunk water, sharing the glass.
Who had not thought about it deeply
though they might have, had they known.
Someone grown and someone not-grown.
Who thought they had different amounts of time left.
This guessing game ends with our hands in the air,
becoming air.
One who was there is not there, for no reason.
Two who were there.

It was almost too big to see.

3

Our friend from Turkey says language is so delicate
he likens it to a darling.

We will take this word in our arms.
It will be small and breathing.
We will not wish to scare it.
Pressing lips to the edge of each syllable.
Nothing else will save us now.
The word “together” wants to live in every house.

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About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and spent the last 14 years teaching in an incrediable hybrid school setting. My dissertation topic and research were how teachers experience becoming who teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

20 responses »

  1. thank you for sharing this –

    Reply
  2. Very powerful. Thank you for sharing, Ivon.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: from Teacher as Transformer: | By the Mighty Mumford

  4. What a beautiful poem.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    WORDS IN VERSE HELP US UNDERSTAND THE UNIVERSE! THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!

    Reply
  6. “near the lonely Golan”, ah, but as a Palestinian,she shows her longing for her homeland, and the occupiers are not cherishing the word “together”, quite the opposite, so she is longing for the love that could be, if this word was everyone’s mantra.

    Reply
  7. I like the idea of poetry as a beacon of understanding. Perhaps that is why I don’t enjoy poetry that doesn’t seem to know where it is going or perhaps that is the issue at heart, I cannot go just anywhere and don’t care for my restriction. Is it better, then just to enjoy what can be enjoyed or to search for an opening? A riddle for you Ivon. Personally, if possible I just enjoy.

    Reply
    • I think, when we enjoy, the openings appear. It is a miracle that way. The other day I was on one of my daily walks. I was enjoying the walk and all of a sudden a deer appeared. In that opening, the enjoyment exceeded itself.

      Reply

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