Tag Archives: Naomi Shihab Nye

Leave a Space: NPM22 Day 20

Today I’m feeling the accumulation of too much to do and too little time–so when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Burning the Old Year as part of today’s #verselove prompt at Ethical ELA, the lines an absence shouts, leaves a space shouted at me about the need for space. It’s rough, but here’s the direction I headed.

Leave a Space

Leave a space

for breath

As I hurry to finish all the things

a list longer

than my memory

tying knots between

my should blades

Leave a space

to ponder

instead of filling my brain

with bad news

fake news

ridiculous new

who really needs

this news?

Leave a space

of contemplation

Another meeting

another committee

filled with decisions

that everyone

and no one

cares about and those who care the least

make the final


Leave a space

to just be

wide open space

Leave a space

where I can be me


What’s in Your Pocket?

Tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket day, the day when poetry is celebrated by carrying a favorite poem in your pocket and sharing it with others.  So before we left school today, my teaching partner and I gathered poems for our students to choose from and she made a darling display of pockets that we stuffed with poems and hung on the door.

And when I got home I started thinking about the poem I will carry in my pocket tomorrow.  And it’s hard…there are so many wonderful poems out there.  I love different poems for different reasons.  As I started thinking about poems I know and love, I remembered a favorite that I haven’t revisited in a while.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

by Naomi Shihab Nye
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23872#sthash.CJvqErxc.dpuf

I love the idea that poems hide…and that you have to live in way that lets you find those
hidden poems.  I feel like photography is like that too.  It lets me look into the eyes of skunks
and find the beauty they hold.  It lets me see weeds as beautiful, tenacious survivors instead
of persistent pests.  Beauty is in the geometry, in the contrast of color, in the juxtaposition of
ideas, in the wonder that comes from noticing instead of just walking by.
I think I’ll carry a photo in my pocket tomorrow too.  To remind me to live in ways that allows
me to find poems…and pictures.
dandelion in the street
What will you carry for Poem in Your Pocket Day?  How will you live to let poems find you?