Naomi Shihab Nye was born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother; poet, songwriter, children’s author, novelist, and editor. In 1966, when she was 14, her family moved to the West Bank because her paternal grandmother was sick. In 1967, just before the Six-Day War broke out, they returned to the U.S., settling in San Antonio, Texas. She earned a BA in English and world religions from Trinity University in 1974. Nye teaches creative writing at Texas State University, and also runs writing workshops for children and teens. Nye was honored for her body of work with the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, and in 2019, the Poetry Foundation chose her as the Young People’s Poet Laureate for the 2019-2021 term. In addition to editing anthologies of verse by contemporary poets, she has published over two dozen collections of her own poetry. Her debut young adult novel Habibi was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and honored with a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, given for children’s books which advance peace and social equality.
To read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Jerusalem” click:
by Naomi Shihab Nye
“Let’s be the same wound if we must bleed.
Let’s fight side by side, even if the enemy
is ourselves: I am yours, you are mine.”
—Tommy Olofsson, Sweden
I’m not interested in
who suffered the most.
I’m interested in
people getting over it.
Once when my father was a boy
a stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddle: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother’s doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Later his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.
Each carries a tender spot:
something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
“I am native now.”
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child’s poem says,
“I don’t like wars,
they end up with monuments.”
He’s painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.
Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
There’s a place in my brain
where hate won’t grow.
I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.
It’s late but everything comes next.
“Jerusalem” from Red Suitcase. © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye – BOA Editions Ltd