by Naomi Shihab Nye
Vocabularies glittered in that tightly locked space.
Ways of breaking through, tunneling verbs,
compact muscular descriptives you could
hop a wall with, if only. Try this on
your own time. What they had — time.
And regret — imagine if we’d known
these wide words in the streets.
The youngest, celebrating his birthday,
sat in front, hands folded on desk,
smiling softly through apologies
to daughters, what happened on that avenue,
a train stalled outside a school,
normal days marked by sun, moon, money,
and lack of it. Finely tuned gerunds
clinking in succession.
Adjectives polished and combed.
How beautiful they were,
in their same suits, a crowd of men you knew
would help if you were falling, someone
pushed you down. How every one of us has
a hundred ways we could go wrong
and they are very close by.
They opened lines to climb out of them,
past tense more exquisite than present,
and repetition, the mysterious comfort
of rolling back-to-back syllables,
when it might be better
to insert a new phrase or start over entirely,
if only, beams of light
shaping the page.