Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)
I just finished reading Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea, a powerful recent Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology. Wow. I love the ocean so much, and these poems about ocean voyages and voyagers really touched me. Having just visited a refugee camp on an island in the Mediterranean Sea recently (photos below), Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem especially resonated with me.
If you are the child of a refugee, you do not
sleep easily when they are crossing the sea
on small rafts and you know they can’t swim.
My father couldn’t swim either. He swam through
sorrow, though, and made it to the other side
on a ship, pitching his old clothes overboard
at landing, then tried to be happy, make a new life.
But something inside him was always paddling home,
clinging to anything that floated – a story, a food or face.
They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe
swirling as many details as yours, as much love for
a humble place. Now the shirt is torn,
the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere
to receive a letter for a very long time.
And if we can reach out a hand, we better.
–Naomi Shihab Nye, from Traveling the Blue Sea, all rights reserved
The asylum seekers we ate lunch with, a mother and father and two young sons who had escaped Syria, were so gracious. The father told us about their journey (the walk to Turkey, the harrowing, stormy boat journey on an overcrowded boat, the long wait they are still on to be classified as refugees), and it was sobering and heartbreaking. Naomi’s poem, especially “They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don’t dare look down on them,” feels so true.
There are many other wonderful poems in this anthology–look for it. And for more terrific poems right now, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with poet-educator Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche!
Linda Mitchell says
Thank you, Laura. This book really got to me. This poem really got to me….it’s what I was thinking about yesterday with Aphrodite’s Rock. I’m so glad you have reviewed this book today. It is beautiful. That line, “always paddling toward home” stays with me.
Your photos & the poem shared from TRAVELING THE BLUE ROAD, leave me stunned. I am so appreciative of the wide welcoming/helping arms of the many, who often seem out- numbered by the loud, uncaring few. Thank you for visiting the refugee camp & appreciations for sharing Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem in this recent LBH anthology.
I plan to order.
Naomi’s poetry always touches me to the core. Her way of getting to the real gut of a moment, as in “always paddling home.” Thanks for sharing this poem and the collection.
Irene Latham says
I, too, love the “blue road”… and believe in the bravery of those who would risk so much for a better life. What faith! What courage! Heroes. (Also I just listened to THE DEVIL’S HIGHWAY… talk about powerful.) Thank you, Laura! xo
That looks like an intense book–just added to my tbr shelf. Thanks!
I have the book, have only read a little of it, sad to say. I’ve been volunteering a little bit at a refugee center here, bringing books that are not used for our bookstore, arranging them, too. Everyone is trying hard to take care of themselves and families, always friendly to me. Thanks for sharing your experience, Laura. It’s hard to imagine their plight, and I want to help as much as I can. Though I only moved across states, that “But something inside him was always paddling home” touched me, too. Wherever one begins, that’s home, isn’t it?
That’s so wonderful, Linda, what you’re doing. I’m hoping, once we move and I have a car again during the daytime, to find a way to work with refugee children and literacy. We have a large refugee population here in Minnesota, and I want to find a small way to help practically, like you are doing.
I have the book and it’s waiting for me to dive into sometime this summer. Your post has moved it higher up in the pile. I love Nye’s poetry and am so moved by the strength and the plight of refugees. This line popped for me: “clinging to anything that floated – a story, a food or face.”
Yes! That line…each of us could be a small point of floating with something to offer people in trouble…
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes says
I consider it a gift how you’ve brought this poem to life for me, Laura. Thank you. I have no doubt your daughter is doing some amazing, soul-searching, life-changing work.
Kay Mcgriff says
Thank you, Laura, for sharing Naomi’s poem and some of your journey. My heart breaks for all those people who have had to flee everything the know to face the unknown, and my heart breaks for a country that seems determined to slam the doors on them. That last line–If we can reach out a hand, we better–rings true.
Michelle Kogan says
“Mediterranean Blue” as in her title there are so many levels crying out to be heard in this poem–it’s so timely. Thanks for sharing this book Laura, and Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem.
What an opportunity you had, and what a great book. I’ve skimmed it, but obviously need to dig in deeper!