Pakistan with Open Arms


Tonight in Karachi, a man drapes
jasmine garlands over his wrist
and looks both ways.
It is the hour of the walk,
when men and women come slowly forth
from houses, kitchens,
their stride growing long and musical,
sky finally softening its grip.
Whatever they talked about in the day
stands back to let them pass.

In some languages, a voice asking
a question goes up at the end
and an answer slopes toward the sea.
Maybe now the turtles are stepping
from their nests at the beach,
the huge shrine of their eggs behind them.
Maybe the fabulous painted buses
are cooling their engines at the lot.

How could I have seen, twenty years ago,
a night when a string of fragrant flowers
would be all I desired?
In the peaked shadow of his house
a man reads a map on which deserts
and mountains are different colors.
Each province has its own woven rugs
and speckled red hats.
He wishes to walk in a hundred villages
where people he will never meet are walking.

Into my arms I gather the quiet avenue,
the patience of curbs.
A family relaxes on a sweep of public grass.
Their shirts are cotton and silk.
They visit quietly as the moon comes speaking
its simple round name.
I gather them into me, saying,
This is the thunderous city.
This is the person who once was afraid.


Naomi Shihab Nye, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, The Eighth Mountain Press, 1995.