My father
who was always my father
not always my father

not always
once a confident schoolboy
strolling slow Jerusalem streets

He knew the alleyways
spoke to stones
All his life he would pick up stones
pocket them
line them in his sunny Texas windowsill
On some he drew

What do we say in the wake of one
who was always homesick?
Are you home now?
Is Palestine peaceful in some dimension
we can’t see?
Do Jews and Arabs share the table?
Is holy in the middle?

The News

How I miss my dad when Karen Hughes or Condoleeza Rice
come on the screen – his favorites – the great experts on foreign
policy – he mocked their platitudes. I miss his sorrowful gaze
to the side at commercials, especially after scenes of places he knew,
terraced orchards, stone villages, and knew the world didn’t want to know.

His letters keep unscrolling in my mind.
Dear Militant, I know you were more likely
a heartbroken boy who lost a brother or father
and struggled all your poor life to get a grip,
but they called you a militant
the minute they killed you
so they could get away with it.
Just want you to know – I know –
and I’m sorry for your suffering.

Dear Soldier with a Tank and Many Guns,
You look more like a militant to me – actually.
They say you’re working for security when
you terrify women and wreck houses
and treat my people so rudely –
you like to feel secure while doing it.
Just want you to know – I know –
And from the side of things I’m on right now –
the disembodied side, the bigger picture side,
it looks stranger
than ever.


Naomi Shihab Nye is a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus and the author of more than 20 volumes of poetry, including You and Yours (BOA Editions, 2005), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, as well as 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002), a collection of new and selected poems about the Middle East; Fuel (1998), Red Suitcase (1994), and Hugging the Jukebox (1982).

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