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    We thought of ourselves as people of culture.

    How long will it be till others see us that way again?

              Iraqi friend

In her first home each book had a light around it.

The voices of distant countries

floated in through open windows,

entering her soup and her mirror.

They slept with her in the same thick bed.

Someday she would go there.

Her voice, among all those voices.

In Iraq a book never had one owner—it had ten.

Lucky books, to be held often

and gently, by so many hands.

Later in American libraries she felt sad

for books no one ever checked out.

She lived in a country house beside a pond

and kept ducks, two male, one female.

She worried over the difficult relations

of triangles. One of the ducks

often seemed depressed.

But not the same one.

During the war between her two countries

she watched the ducks more than usual.

She stayed quiet with the ducks.

Some days they huddled among reeds

or floated together.

She could not call her family in Basra

which had grown farther away than ever

nor could they call her. For nearly a year

she would not know who was alive,

who was dead.

The ducks were building a nest.

from FuelFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 1998
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in Naomi Shihab Nye Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.