Poem Therapy: Haunted Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

We are looking for your laugh.
Trying to find the path back to it
between drooping trees.
Listening for your rustle
under bamboo,
brush of fig leaves,
feeling your step
on the porch,
natty lantana blossom
poked into your buttonhole.
We see your raised face
at both sides of a day.
How was it, you lived around
the edge of everything we did,
seasons of ailing & growing,
mountains of laundry & mail?
I am looking for you first & last
in the dark places,
when I turn my face away
from headlines at dawn,
dropping the rolled news to the floor.
Your rumble of calm
poured into me.
There was the saving grace
of care, from day one, the watching
and being watched
from every corner of the yard.

The last few weeks I have been dreaming of my uncle, William, a man killed in WWI France. I never knew him. What I know of him is from the second-hand stories my father relates from the stories his own father told him. And from the stories I have written, imagining the life he never had the opportunity to live.

My interest with William began with a dream almost ten years ago, then with the tree planted for him in Veteran's Park, and now he is back in my dreamworld. In recent dreams he is more of a ghost than a person, never menacing, but always a presence, like a shadow in bright sunlight.

I still don't know what this obsession/interest/fascination with my uncle means.

I like to think that my ancestors take an interest in my life, guide me as best they can. I like to think I listen to their whispers.

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