Naomi Shihab Nye
The Words Under the Words
for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem
My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.
My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.
My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.
My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”
Naomi Shihab Nye's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (The Words Under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye )
Did you read them?
- The Truth, Tony Adah
- National feeling, Asit Kumar Sanyal
- Key to my Dreams, Saturday Chikezie Promise
- Just want to tell you, Saturday Chikezie Promise
- I really want to be with you, Saturday Chikezie Promise
- Moon fever, ramesh rai
- Emotions at the door, Saturday Chikezie Promise
- unpredictable love, Saturday Chikezie Promise
- The Matyr, Tony Adah
- Los Primeros Días del Otoño, Hebert Logerie
Poem of the Day
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- Alone, Maya Angelou
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(600 - 670)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)