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Mamool Cookies

She enveloped the stage with easy grace,
a master of images and annotations of significance

The moon was full with redemption and poked her head
through narrow streets, through the wealth of boulevards;
if love can bear it all, the tip of a poet's tongue
is always touching the immensity of her heart
beating with blind eyes and deaf ears,

Sorrow is sorrow
and always wears the same shroud
war is thievery an equilibrium that must be denied
to endure
the pain of indifference, the most circuitous of paths--
shadows of graves not yet dug,
bulldozing generations not yet born, their names,
Rachel and Aziz, shalom salaam, wailing walls and minarets
temples and churches in the little town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem

But even olive trees must bear fruit in the land that was Palestine;
her soil is self-sustaining filling buckets to press or buckets of
fear and discontent.

A donkey brays, we all seek shelter from the sun,

Sometimes a poet weeps with poems for her father's homeland
and the audience
does not go back to sleep.

Last few words: 
(Barry & I attended a poetry reading by Naomi Shihab Nye last night, I have been an activist with my Middle East Peace Forum for several years. I woke up several times with some fantastic opening lines, which I repeated and repeated but by the time I awakened, they went *poof*...gone. Hopefully they'll come back with other poems.)
Editing stage: 


This is the poem by which I was introduced to Naomi Shihab Nye several years ago, before I became a Middle East Peace activist.

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her -- southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There [are] no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped
-- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.


The last stanza of one of her poems will be immortalized at/on 1 World Trade

author comment

I was reminded of which poem of Naomi's was selected to be immortalized at 1 Trade Center.
(The last paragraph)



Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

author comment
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