Naomi Shihab Nye

(12 March 1952 / St. Louis, Missouri)

Hello Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye


Some nights
the rat with pointed teeth
makes his long way back
to the bowl of peaches.
He stands on the dining room table
sinking his tooth
drinking the pulp
of each fruity turned-up face
knowing you will read
this message and scream.
It is his only text,
to take and take in darkness,
to be gone before you awaken
and your giant feet
start creaking the floor.

Where is the mother of the rat?
The father, the shredded nest,
which breath were we taking
when the rat was born,
when he lifted his shivering snout
to rafter and rivet and stone?
I gave him the names of the devil,
seared and screeching names,
I would not enter those rooms
without a stick to guide me,
I leaned on the light, shuddering,
and the moist earth under the house,
the trailing tails of clouds,
said he was in the closet,
the drawer of candles,
his nose was a wick.

How would we live together
with our sad shoes and hideouts,
our lock on the door
and his delicate fingered paws
that could clutch and grip,
his blank slate of fur
and the pillow where we press our faces?
The bed that was a boat is sinking.
And the shores of morning loom up
lined with little shadows,
things we never wanted to be, or meet,
and all the rats are waving hello.

Submitted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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