Naomi Shihab Nye


Dear Chula, remember how discussing simple phrases

gave the greatest pleasure –to be “out of sorts” or “beside oneself”

for example, because when did people ever feel “in sorts” or

“inside oneself” or mention when they did? Somehow our echoes,

floating conversations from college days, are helping me

hold the quarantine more kindly. We’re all okay…but just this moment

how many gasp and die? Who could not feel out of one’s mind?

While we putter around our cozy homes, staying “safe and sane”

as all the letters finish now, the count ticks up.

Feeling beside myself at every minute? For you, and you…

Here’s my hope: those surviving will get a menu.  A set of memories

“still to think about.” An unfinished song. New plans. A group of phrases

folded on a beautiful card, like the “Poem Menus” on hospital trays

in Ireland, the “Poems for Patience” I was asked to pick one year,

all 22 of them, from writers big and small, voices one might wish to meet,

beside the pudding or jello. It was the best job I ever had.

While recovering from surgery or sickness, a patient would find

a surprise toast to Back-to-Life, Slow Time,

succulent words nicely arranged,

and maybe feel their own groggy heads echoing response –

oh, that reminds me of… then something more to think about.

How millions are wishing you all longer lives. Ourselves, as well.
But where is hither and yon, for example?

Do they have the virus there?

NAOMI SHIHAB NYE is the Young People’s Poet Laureate (Poetry Foundation) and lives in San Antonio. Her most recent book is CAST AWAY (Greenwillow).