Treasure Island

Naomi Shihab Nye

(12 March 1952 / St. Louis, Missouri)

Different Ways to Pray


There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.

Submitted: Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (Different Ways to Pray by Naomi Shihab Nye )

Enter the verification code :

  • Joe Breunig (1/4/2012 5:28:00 AM)

    An enjoyable piece; having a conversation with God can be achieved in numerous ways - in any case, it still requires our time and a proper heart's attitude; nicely done.

    -Joe Breunig
    Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

Top Poems

  1. Phenomenal Woman
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  5. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  6. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. A Dream Within A Dream
    Edgar Allan Poe
  9. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  10. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
    Maya Angelou

PoemHunter.com Updates

New Poems

  1. Collect Call to: F. J. Thomas..., Monk E. Biz
  2. Bed Time, Michael McParland
  3. Trepidation, Laura Milner
  4. Yes September, gajanan mishra
  5. A RAINING AFTER DROUGHT, Chinweokwu Sunlight M. Ndubu ..
  6. Illuminating, Mark Heathcote
  7. Over looking choice, Jessica Dehn
  8. The Wine Effect, I Am Krakatoa
  9. Light Foot xx xxx xx Original 12 28.., Lee Mack
  10. changing the world, Frederick J.B. Moore II

Poem of the Day

poet Helen Hunt Jackson

The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way,
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
...... Read complete »

   
[Hata Bildir]