January 30, 2017

MAKING A FIST: Naomi Shihab Nye



Today this poem, from the Poetry Foundation website. Read more poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, and about her life and work, there.


Making a Fist
    We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
                                                                  —Jorge Luis Borges


For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.



Naomi Shihab Nye, “Making a Fist” from Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry. Copyright © 1988 University of Utah Press. 

Image by Nina Tara, courtesy of Red Edge Images

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