Friday, February 3, 2017

Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye
I've been a bit under the weather lately (better now) and have posted infrequently, but I want to be sure to share this lovely poem by Naomi Shihab Nye for today's Poetry Friday. Nye has just been named the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecturer 2017 by the ALSC, and she is a role model for all of us - as a poet, as a citizen, and as a child of immigrants. [July 2017 update: Nye's Arbuthnot lecture will be delivered in Bellingham, WA., my new home town! ]  BTW: Snow on the ground tonight in Seattle!

Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.
Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers—silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.


  1. Beautiful poem, as always from Nye. She is incredible.

  2. Yes, beautiful. Hope you're feeling better.

  3. I'm trying to get in touch with you about reprinting your poem What Bee Did in an anthology.

  4. I hope you'll be feeling better soon, Julie. This poem is one I've never seen. It has such a strong, contemplative voice, that calling the self 'skin', much more interesting than writing "I" (which I tried reading that way). It's a lonely feeling poem, even toward the end, rather wistful. Thanks, you made me think. And I imagined the flowers.

  5. Wow - this one is particularly timely. Thanks so much for sharing, Julie, and I hope you're back to feeling 100 percent soon.

  6. I'm glad you are feeling better, Julie. I hope it's not a serious thing. This was a fascinating alternate viewpoint, an acknowledgement of the skin as us. I love those last two lines of the first stanza. As if every building we raise is an homage to our skin.

  7. So fun to run across Nye over and over again this week. Her voice is very relevant.

  8. Sorry you've been under the weather. Thanks for taking the time to share this beautiful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.

  9. Dear Julie,
    I would like to reprint a splendid short poem of yours in an anthology, but I can't find any address for you except this blog. Would you please contact me?

    Dana Gioia (