Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Once I get going with Nye, it's hard to stop . . . :)
This is just a portion. Snippets from her poem called "Arabic."
If you've never spoken a second language, you may not understand. How the world changes with the words you use. How "Insha'allah," breathed with every sentence, ushers in a world where nothing but God is certain. "Salaam alaikum." In a region of conflict and war, praying peace upon your neighbor's life is more than a nicety. It is a necessity born out of urgency and need.

The man with laughing eyes stopped smiling
to say, "Until you speak Arabic,
you will not understand the pain."

"Once you know," he whispered . . .
"Music you heard from a distance,

the slapped drum of a stranger's wedding,
wells up inside your skin, inside rain, a thousand
pulsing tongues. You are changed."

I thought pain had no tongue. Or every tongue
at once, supreme translator, sieve. I admit my
shame. To live on the brink of Arabic, tugging

its rich threads without understanding
how to weave the rug . . . I have no gift.
The sound, but not the sense.

-Naomi Shihab Nye ("Arabic," 19 Varieties of Gazelle)

No comments: