Friday, February 28, 2020

A Red Poem from CAST AWAY by Naomi Shihab Nye

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup. If I was really on it (as I'm sure many of you are), I'd have a Leap Day poem to share... as it is, I am just trying to keep my head above water this week, so I will just shout out my greetings to any Leap Day babies out there: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Also, so many thanks to Shelby County, Vestavia Hills and Hoover educators and students for giving me and Charles Waters such a lovely welcome this week! THANK YOU!!

Lucky me, I did have a chance to read CAST AWAY: Poems for our Time (from HarperCollins), the newest collection of poems from Naomi Shihab Nye. We learn in this collection that Naomi is a trash walker -- she collects bits of trash wherever she is in the world, and this collection is drawn from those adventures. You're going to love it! And... Naomi kindly gave me permission to share a (red) poem that caught my eye. I hope you enjoy this treasure... and I hope you pick up the book.

Red Ribbon on the Walk

After the bulldozers,
graders, noisy asphalt mixers,
lumber away for the tenth time,
trying to repave Sheridan Street,
poor old Sheridan
keeps cracking again
the minute it's new
due to the weight of buses
and ancient irrigation ditches
supposedly running beneath it,
I find you, long satiny red ribbon,
lying in the street.
Bulldozers dropping a red satin ribbon?
Seems unlikely.
Construction workers in helmets, orange vests...
leave a red ribbon?
Like the world we're in now.
Things that don't go together
confounding at every turn.
Sometimes we just have to close our eyes.
Think of something better.

- Naomi Shihab Nye

And now for my next ArtSpeak: RED poem! I decided to go with my main gal Mary Cassatt to the theater! Be sure and find the nosy fellow in the distance with the binoculars turned toward... YOU!

Show Time

Heavy red curtain
soon to rise –
so many faces,
         so many eyes!

The play's the thing --
yes, those words are wise,
but they don't explain

why this moment
someone's watching you
watching me
watch the red curtain rise.

- Irene Latham


  1. And you brought US into your poem. I wonder who "he" is, mysterious man with the binoculars. Why is he watching her? Or is it someone near her? Who is she? So many questions. And binoculars, they focus on just a small bit of the scene. I am headed to NYC to a play and this poem helps put me in the mood even more. (Though it won't be this kind of grand theater as this is Off Broadway, but nonethess, I love going!) Praying the whole virus thing will not change plans. UGH. PS I love yours and Charles' A-Z book. LOVE. I am sharing with with kids when I visit schools!!! Congratulations. Wishing I had seen you more in B-more! Janet Clare F.

  2. PS About Naomi's poem. I LOVE this idea. LOVE IT. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  3. Ah, those last two lines in Nye's poem!

  4. Thanks for sharing Irene! I like the idea of who's watching the watcher. I feel this is a common theme in my own writing. I really enjoyed the cadence of the poem.

  5. What a wonderful RED poem....I love that breaking of the fourth wall. You are so good!

  6. Sometimes we just have to close our eyes! I've ordered the book, but first I need to read The Tiny Journalist. Lots of wonderful words to read, right? We are lucky. I love your Red poem, that turning of "they don't explain". Thanks, Irene, you show me new things every time.

  7. So much captured with so few words, Irene. Clever you. And fittingly tied up with Naomi's red ribbon.

  8. It's ekphrastic, and I love it! Who is watching whom, and why? Hooray for this red read!

  9. Looking forward to Cast Away -- thanks for sharing that. And I loved your Red Artspeak piece, Irene! That painting inspires so many questions.... :)

  10. A new collection from Naomi Shahib Nye is a reason to celebrate--will look for this one. And hooray for your "watching you watching me watching that red curtain rise."

  11. I like how you wove in all those watching eyes in your "Show Time" poem Irene. And thanks for sharing the fun, pondering, questioning poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, and her new book!

  12. I love the mystery in both these poems, Irene. It's one of my favorite things that poetry does: make us aware of the mysteries. It doesn't solve them, but sometimes just wondering is enough.


Your thoughts?