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Tag Archives: Naomi Shihab Nye

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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Adios

When we say good-bye to something or someone, the word means more than we say. We hold thoughts and images of what and who we leave behind. Our work, when we say Adios, is incomplete. We recall the memories of things and people we left behind, as we said and waved good-bye. The memories bring smiles, tears, shrugs, and frowns, among other features, to our face and body.

When we say good-bye, there is always something and someone calling us back, perhaps only in our mind as we reach out. The space fills with questions about what we left and a sense of wondering about what is happening with that thing or that person.

Naomi Shihab Nye captured the essence of good-bye as it rolls off our tongues and as we tap our fingers marroed to it. Thoughts and images fill our minds as we reflect on what that word, regardless of language, might mean.

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue;

no matter what language you were born with

use it. Learn where it begins,

the small alphabet of departure,

how long it takes to think of it,

then say it, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,

it shines, it shines.

Wear it on every finger

till your hands dance,

touching everything easily,

letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.

Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.

If you are known for anything,

let it be the way you rise out of sight

when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,

cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,

what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you

before you knew what it meant

or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.

Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,

Shoulders

Yesterday, a student grumbled about not liking Math. I responded by saying I did not enjoy it either in school. She looked at me and asked me why I taught it. I explained I am not a Math teacher which elicited a comment about how good I was at it. It all reminded me of the adage: “We do not teach subjects. We teach children.” Or that is what I should do.

I looked for a poem that addressed this need to be a teacher of children. It is a calling. I think of the teachers I had who enjoyed being in the classroom and they carried each of us gently. Naomi Shihab Nye spoke about this lifting up of children and learners. I choose to be a learner with my students. I owe them being able to teach them Math even if I don’t enjoy it.

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye and Out of Great Need by Hafiz

I finished reading Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer. It is a wonderful book and, even though he wrote it from an American perspective, it has many universal messages. These poems focus on a message we are in life together-we share, reciprocate, appreciate.

I am reaching the point of settling into the dissertation process. My theme is technology, its implications in learning, mindful practices, and the role of leadership in the use of technology. Today, the responses I received from yesterday’s post, Inspiring Blog Award, was evidence that various social media offer opportunities to build digital community. Gonzaga has a journal club for its doctoral students. We find research articles, read them and summarize key points, and present our understanding as they relate to leadership. I presented one about Virtual Communities of Practice today. A key point is reciprocity or the giving and receiving of gifts. This is not a material gift, but one demonstrated through appreciation for the other when they post or say something online. I was able to share I saw the reciprocity and appreciation fully today. You are part of an emerging phenomenological study.

These poems are for you.

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