Naomi Shihab is one of our greatest poets. She has married words to her heart. We would all live so much more richly if we would recognize that words have power. We would do so much less harm and so much more good if what we said and what we wrote, if what we whispered on the phone or text to a friend understood the power of words.
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
“Shoulders” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Red Suitcase.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “In writing, one should hear all the whisperings, all the shouting, all the crying, all the loving and all the hating of the many voices in the past. Those voices will never speak to a writer in a foreign language.”