Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change by Naomi Shihab Nye

What brought you here today? Was it because of all the sad poems? Was it because of the stupid movie? Wasn’t it because of cruelty? Love is cruel, savage, brutal, barbarous, vicious. Was it love that brought you here? Were you expecting something grand? The heart is like a fist wrapped in blood. Let me tell you a little secret: It makes you the most vulnerable fool in the world.

Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change
Naomi Shihab Nye

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.

Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.

The train whistle still wails its ancient sound
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.

This is from Words Under Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, published by Far Corner Books, 1995.

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