The Words Under the Words
By Naomi Shihab Nye
for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem
My grandmother's hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat's new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.
My grandmother's days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.
My grandmother's voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband's coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.
My grandmother's eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
"Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones."
I spent the official first day of spring (which was quite cold, though at least we didn't get snow here) with dementordelta, who went with me to pick up samosas (plus a chicken sandwich for Daniel), then came back here to watch the 2010 Robin Hood, Australia, and Mystery, Alaska (no, we weren't trying to cover as much of the world as possible, we were just looking for Russell and Hugh
Daniel was in the room with us while the movies were on, but he was busy with video games online with friends from school for pretty much the entire day (all his women friends are apparently gamers, so rather than go out with them, he is playing Left For Dead with them). Adam -- whose girlfriend ended up in the hospital today after inadvertently eating something with peanuts in it -- went to a University of Hartford reception around when Delta had to go home, so we had club sandwiches for dinner. I watched Beauty and the Beast, which I continue to like a lot though I want Catherine and Tess to be friends and co-workers, not at odds, then we watched some NCAA basketball (we did not see the Maryland game, but the Terps beat Denver and will get to play the winner of the Alabama-Stanford game). I have been scanning old cards that apaulled made me while I have a coupon for a free Shutterfly book so I can print them. Here is a Voyager valentine from the 1990s: