Fall/Winter 2014

Naomi Shihab Nye


     (For Billy Collins)

They thought we were married in Michigan, Billy,
telling me my husband's books had sold out while mine
still loitered in the shelves.
My husband has no books, I said, perplexed.
Later you announced from the stage
we have the perfect marriage,
we hardly ever get together.

But that's not true. We do. Everywhere,
we're following the same air.
I go where you've been,
a year or more behind you.
Cobbles of Church Lane in Ledbury,
sweetness of hourly bells.
We sleep, adjacent years,
same house in Helsinki,
same salty inn by Katchemak Bay, Alaska.

Everyone tells me what you did everywhere.
And you're so much braver.
Today I pass the Prince of Wales pub you probably entered.
They say the kitchen closed three minutes ago.
I'm sure it was open when you were here, Billy.

Am I a shadow twin, is there
a quiet space between your perfect stanzas
big enough to live in?
The extra pocket in your jacket,
the fringe, on the cliff and near the sea,
it's less lonely knowing you're out there,
but where are you today? I'll make my plan.
And no, I did not fly your tiny prop plane gazing for bears in Homer,
nor rent a kayak for an otter glide, I did not book a car in England
to drive on the left of the skinny road.
I have little to show. I watered the plants.
And listened to fabulous poets.

Billy, we're so lucky.
Good thing no competitive streak simmers under this lid.
But today a friendly tear rose as I left Ledbury.
I'll bet I loved this place even more than you did.

Naomi Shihab Nye's most recent book is THE TURTLE OF OMAN (Greenwillow, 2014), a chapter book for children. She lives by the river in old San Antonio..



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