La Ghriba (“The Stranger”) Tells How and Why

By Nomi Stone Nomi Stone
The people who live here
do two things: their faces whiten past you or blacken into
you. Girls are not supposed to come to islands
by themselves; did no one tell you? You found

the highest hill, away from their whistles,
their eyes. Up here only windy grass, the blow of sea that brought you.
Only a few cigarette butts, pistachio shells. They come here,
but hardly. The house you make

is sticks and burrs. Dirt on white knuckles. The sea
through the cracks. They do not talk to you anymore, or look at you,
your first wish. The wind and sea are full of stomachs:
now, learn to disappear

into them. Your house’s slender frame catches
fire one day. You hear them buzzing below. They watch,
they stand, wild brightness from the hill reflecting
in each eye. Light. Birds almost green among

the sparks. Is it the sun? No, the moon
has caught the sun in its mouth. The moon is nothing but the sun letting
it see itself. The question comes again, do you have too much faith
in people, or too little? Like when you were sitting on the ledge by the sea

and three large boys’ shadows stubbed the grass.
Your first thought was, so they will make me fall. But they don’t
make you fall. Whether they are afraid of you or you of them, whether
they are jeering, is not clear.

This is the island with the hill with the house with the girl with the fire
inside. Afterwards they climb to the top to look at something ruined
close-up. They touch the door, soft with ash:

the body, amongst the branches and birds,
is white. The face catches the sun’s   
light.

Nomi Stone, “La Ghriba (‘The Stranger’) Tells How and Why” from Stranger’s Notebook. Copyright 2008 Nomi Stone. Reprinted by permission of TriQuarterly Books.

Source: Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly Books, 2008)

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Poet Nomi Stone

Subjects Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Biography

Nomi Stone's first book of poems, Stranger’s Notebook (TriQuarterly Books, 2008) chronicles her time living in one of the last cohesive Jewish communities in North Africa. She has a Masters in Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford University, and was Fulbright Scholar in Creative Writing in Tunisia. Stone is currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University. She has received poetry fellowships and grants . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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