Jerusalem

By Naomi Shihab Nye b. 1952

        “Lets be the same wound if we must bleed.
         Let
s fight side by side, even if the enemy
         is ourselves: I am yours, you are mine.”

                        —Tommy Olofsson, Sweden

I’m not interested in
who suffered the most.
I’m interested in
people getting over it.

Once when my father was a boy
a stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddle: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother’s doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Later his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.

Each carries a tender spot:
something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
“I am native now.”
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child’s poem says,
“I don’t like wars,
they end up with monuments.”
He’s painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.

Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
it’s ridiculous.

There’s a place in my brain
where hate won’t grow.
I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.

It’s late but everything comes next.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Jerusalem” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. .

Source: Red Suitcase (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1994)

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Poet Naomi Shihab Nye b. 1952

Subjects Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

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 Naomi Shihab Nye

Biography

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. Her experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has influenced much of her work. Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects, Nye has said that, . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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