(Naomi Shihab Nye will visit Bucknell in September 2012 as the Sandra and Gary Sojka Visiting Poet)
is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.
Nye’s poem is about the chatter of everyday life, which takes on a life of its own, growing and transforming until we no longer have control of it. In the poem, this chatter becomes a kind of emblem for the larger stories of our lives.
Born in Missouri to a Palestinian father and an American mother of European descent, Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of poetry, essays, children’s books, song recordings, and translations. She currently resides in Texas.