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Naomi Shihab Nye

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again, 
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope, 
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine, 
in the sunniest voice he could muster 
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting 
accumulation. A father goes months 
without speaking to his son. 

How there can be a place 
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet.  The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

From Fuel (BOA, 1998).
Copyright 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Used here with the author's permission.


Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. She has lived in Jordan, Jerusalem, and San Antonio--where she currently resides when not traveling the world to promote peace, love, and joy through poetry. Nye is the author of numerous books of poems and both her poems and short stories have appeared in journals and reviews on multiple continents. She has also won numerous fellowships and awards, but a comment made by fellow poet William Stafford is, I believe, her greatest honor: “[Naomi] is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”


Post New Comment:
It's interesting to study Naomi's work. She does the fine balancing where she leaves enough out, but puts enough in.
Posted 01/12/2015 09:53 AM
A surprising poem as so many of her poems are for me. I've printed it out so I can share it with others as I read it out loud to them.
Posted 01/11/2015 11:49 AM
Glen Sorestad:
A stunningly moving experience -- both reading the poem and the poem itself! Bravo, Naomi.
Posted 01/11/2015 10:04 AM
In 1985, the snow was heavy in San Antonio. I will try to speak to each of my five sons today.
Posted 01/11/2015 09:19 AM
Hi Naomi, love this poem!Your sledding images remind me of my own childhood's snowy hills--that sense of suspended time going up and down with my sister---and the poem's ending is moving and powerful! I think I'll go find *Fuel* on my book shelves and read it again :).
Posted 01/11/2015 09:14 AM
so good - mystical and hard all at once
Posted 01/11/2015 08:17 AM
So much going on here, family secrets only hinted about by a sensitive loving older sister noting the hardness, the drifting / accumulation. Wonderful
Posted 01/11/2015 07:45 AM
that was lovely...good to read over and understand the many meanings Naomi has described...
Posted 01/11/2015 12:12 AM

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