Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Thursday, April 17th is National Poem in Your Pocket Day! I thought I would share the poem that I'm keeping in my pocket for the day. It's from Naomi Shihab Nye's Honeybee (2008, HarperCollins).

I remember watching an interview with Jerry Seinfield about Bee Movie in which he remembered hearing that Albert Einstein once said, "If all the honeybees disappear, human beings have four years left on earth." I think this is an urban legend but in the introduction to Honeybee, Nye also acknowledges this alleged statement and expresses her concern over the plight of the honeybee: "So, I've been obsessed. This is what happens in life. Something takes over your mind for a while and you see other things through a new filter; in a changed light. I call my friends "honeybee" now, which I don't reecall doing before. If I see a lone bee hovering in a flower, I wish it well" (p. 8).

In eighty-two poems and paragraphs, Naomi Shihab Nye alights on the essentials of our time—our loved ones, our dense air, our wars, our memories, our planet—and leaves us feeling curiously sweeter and profoundly soothed.

Most of the poems and prose in Honeybee are about the political times in which we live: The United States Is Not the World, Campaigning Door to Door, Parents of Murdered Palestinian Boy Donate His Organs to Israelis, Letters My Prez is Not Sending, My President Went, etc. Nye does not choose an ambiguous path but lets her feelings about the war come through in a way that only poetry can convey. Though one may not agree with her perception of the war and its political and social ramifications, it is impossible to read these poems without feeling as if Nye is talking to you about the pain and hurt the war has caused her personally. Scattered throughout are her astute observations of honeybees and nature.

The poem I'm keeping in my pocket:


Dipping into the flower zone
Honey stomach plump with nectar

Soaking up directions
Finding our ways in the dark

Fat little pollen baskets
Plumping our legs

You had no idea, did you?
You kept talking about

That wheelbarrow
And chicken

Round dance
Waggle dance

Only 5 species of honeybee
Among 20,000 different bee species

Out there in the far field
Something has changed but

You don't know what it is yet
And everything depends

On us

---Naomi Shihab Nye, Honeybee

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