Here's a poem for the season from Naomi Shihab Nye. She's a Palestinian-American poet who lives in San Antonio. This comes from her most recent book, Fuel, published by BOA Editions:

The Last Day of August

A man in a lawn chair

with a book on his lap

realizes pears are falling

from the tree right beside him.

Each makes a round,

full sound in the grass.

Perhaps the stem takes an hour

to loosen and let go.

This man who has recently written words

to his father forty years in the birthing:

I was always afraid of you,

When would you explode next?

has sudden reverence for the pears.

If a dark bruise rises,

if ants inhabit the juicy crack,

or the body remains firm, unscarred,

remains secret till tomorrow . . .

By then the letter to his father

may be lying open on a table.

We gather pears in baskets, sacks.

What will we do with everything

that has been given us? Ginger pears, pear pies,

fingers weighing flesh.

Which will be perfect under the skin?

It is hard not to love the pile of peelings

growing on the counter next to the knife.

Here is a poem about a condition that many Americans experience, belonging to more than one cultural tradition. Nye's theory of how to negotiate this state is contained in the last line of the poem:


You can't be, says a Palestinian Christian

on the first feast after Ramadan.

So, half-and-half and half-and-half.

He sells glass. He knows about broken bits,

chips. If you love Jesus you can't love

anyone else. Says he.

At his stall of blue pitchers on the Via Dolorosa

he's sweeping. The rubbed stones

feel holy. Dusting of powdered sugar

across faces of date-stuffed mamool.

This morning we lit the slim candles

which bend over at the waist by noon.

For once the priests weren't fighting

in church for the best spots to stand.

As a boy, my father listened to them fight.

This is partly why he prays in no language

but his own. Why I press my lips

to every exception.

A woman opens a window -- here and here

and here --

placing a vase of blue flowers

on an orange cloth. I follow her.

she is making soup from what she had left

in the bowl, the shriveled garlic and bent bean.

She is leaving nothing out.

("The Last Day of August" and "Half-and-Half" copyright @1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted from Fuel, by Naomi Shihab Nyye with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.)