How Palestinians Keep Warm
Choose one word and say it over and over, till it builds a fire inside your mouth. Adhafera, the one who holds out, Alphard, solitary one, the stars were named by people like us. Each night they line up on the long path between worlds. They nod and blink, no right or wrong in their yellow eyes. Dirah, little house, unfold your walls and take us in. My well went dry, my grandfather’s grapes have stopped singing. I stir the coals, my babies cry. How will I teach them they belong to the stars? They build forts of white stone and say, “This is mine.” How will I teach them to love Mizar, veil, cloak, to know that behind it an ancient man is fanning a flame? He stirs the dark wind of our breath. He says the veil will rise till they see us shining, spreading like embers on the blessed hills. Well, I made that up. I’m not so sure about Mizar. But I know we need to keep warm here on earth And when your shawl is as thin as mine is, you tell stories.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “How Palestinians Keep Warm” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.