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07 April 2007

Poets remind us that not everything is lost

NyeAround an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,

I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well -- one pauses these days.  Gate 4-A was my own gate.  I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -
She stopped crying. 

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day.  I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her -- southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life.  Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped
-- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

[Many thanks to my friend and neighbor, John, for sending this wonderful poem.]


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I love Naomi Shahib Nye's poems - her voice soothes and makes me think. Thank you for sharing this hopeful piece.

This is the second poem by this poet to find it's way to me, and both happened within a week but from different sources. Both poems moved me so much, I have to post them on my blog. Yet somehow I'd not heard of her till now. K

Dear Patti,

Thanks so much for this and all of your other wonderful messages (poems and prose)! I haven't written before, but always smile when I see the message in my mailbox that you've posted something new...

Thought you might enjoy this:
"I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off.
I know that is poetry."
--Emily Dickenson

Thanks for bringing poetry into our lives!

PS: Can't wait to see you at Culture Camp!

This poem gave me goosebumps and tears in my eyes...and an elder(ly) Yupik women I traveled with once came to mind. We were an Alaskan traveling performing roadshow, and the elder Yupik women had their own Yupik Mime troupe. One of the elder Yupik women would always notice which member of our troupe seemed down or having a hard time and she would--with slight of hand---slip something into that persons hand--a small ivory carving, a bit of sealskin sewn into a toy seal...whatever little token she had with her, and then she would smile---a beatific smile. She was the type of elder who spread joy wherever she went. (We were touring Russia & Siberia together, 65 of us, all doing various Alaskan performing acts--the troupe was called "Alaskan Performing Artists for Peace"--this was in about 1988, right before the Communist collapse in the USSR)

What a wonderful story. Thank you Patti... :D


those cookies brought me tears
for sharing

nothing is lost
nothing is ever finished
by the grace of
god/good/the muse
and so it is

what a beautiful, beautiful piece. thank you for sharing this from a poet i was unaware of. i've so enjoyed reading the poems you've posted so far this month and look forward to reading more...

Patti, I do not know how you always find things that speak so truly to what I am, but thank you for doing precisely that.

As long as so many people are still touched by these things, the world can happen.

Thank you.

Thanks, Patti! That was a beautiful poem. It's a perfect one for Easter; there's still hope in the world. =)

There are so many ways you have opened up my mind to the possibilities of a crowded airport lounge, to the fascination of a seatmate. I'm trying to be much more open-hearted when I travel (which I do for work)....

It's a year later, and I still reread this, and I still get choked up and amazed whenever I do.

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