Such a swift lump rises in the throat when
a uniformed woman spits Throw it away!
and you tremble to comply wondering why
rules of one airport don't match another's,
used to carrying two Ziploc bags not just one
but your pause causes a uniformed man to approach
barking, Is there something you don't understand?
and you stare at him thinking
So many things, refugees marching
from one parched field to another,
rolled packs on their heads,
burn of ancestors smoldering outside stolen homes,
or you could be six again, yelled at on the playground
by a teacher who knew all the bad things you could do.
You're pressing little shampoos and face creams
firmly into a single plastic bag, he could slap you.
Sorry, so sorry, not wanting
to give up seven extra bottles of Bliss brand
lemon & sage soapy soap fresh-foaming shower gel
that you tipped the W houseboy into leaving
so you could pretend you live a Happy Hour life
back home, you hope she takes it out of the trash
when you turn away, obviously she needs a relaxing shower
and a stiff gin and he needs something like a long trip
into a country full of foreign soldiers and we all need
to swallow hard again so the lumps dissolve
and pressure eases and our worlds mingle kindly
and he no longer feels the gun in his back.
Copyright © 2011 by Naomi Shihab Nye. From Transfer (BOA Editions, 2011). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.