poem today : Naomi Shihab Nye

Mak­ing a Fist

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life slid­ing out of me,
a drum in the desert, hard­er and hard­er to hear.
I was sev­en, I lay in the car
watch­ing palm trees swirl a sick­en­ing pat­tern past the glass.
My stom­ach was a mel­on split wide inside my skin.

How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been trav­el­ing for days.
With strange con­fi­dence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years lat­er I smile to think of that journey,
the bor­ders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unan­swer­able woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the back­seat behind all my questions,
clench­ing and open­ing one small hand.