Poetry Friday:The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

Poetry Friday is hosted by Karen at Karen Edmisten


We are at that stage of weeding out, when every spare moment is spent sorting through some forgotten closet or rummaging through boxes tucked into the furthest reaches of the attic a long time ago.  So. Much. Stuff.

And, in the process of weighing what can stay and what must go, I am making some discoveries.  It turns out, for instance, that we have collected an inordinate number of clocks: wind up, battery operated, plug in, sit-by-the-bedside, or hang-on-the-wall…we have versions (in triplicate) of them all.  For most of my adult life, it would appear, I have believed that it was important to be conscious of the passage of time no matter in which room of our house I happened to be.

At some point, judging from the fact that so many have been boxed away or have ceased to work, I stopped actually looking at all these time pieces, too.   How to mark time and how to spend time, these seem to have shifted for me.  I think I’ve become more mindful of how I want to view time, and choosier about how I want to spend it.  Perhaps this is all just the natural course of things – as we get older, we get wiser about knowing what to do with the time we have…and all the clocks we no longer need.

The Art of Disappearing

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone is telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Naomi Shihab Nye, from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)



13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

  1. Thanks for sharing this poem, Tara. It fits me to a tee.

    I’m in need of another clock. One of my kitchen clocks bit the dust, and although I only have to turn around to see the time on the other clock, or the microwave, I still miss my broken clock. 😦

  2. Love this poem, totally resonates with me. And I appreciated your thoughts about spending time, how we view it differently as we get older. And all those clocks! Ironically my favorite kitchen clock just died (just like Diane), and I, too, have to keep looking at the microwave to see the time. BUT. I will find a new quartz unit with hands so I can fix my clock (it has the 3 bears on it). I’m also like the person Brenda just described. 🙂

  3. Tara, perfect timing for a fun poem with some candid advice. Your “So. Much. Stuff.” paragraph resonates with me. And your paragraph form — a long flowing sentence followed by three stylistic fragments — suits the topic.

  4. Very wise, Tara! And how artfully Ms. Nye says it (“nod briefly and become a cabbage” – Ha! I love that!) I am trying to become better at portioning out my time wisely, and if often means saying “no.”

  5. Wonderful poem and I really enjoyed your reflections on time. I read your recent post about staging and couldn’t even comment because I am so caught (fraught?) in the midst of my own children leaving. Your post today reminds me that this too is a time for learning and understanding and growth. Perhaps I need to find the courage to dig a little deeper and explore the relics of the past while I navigate the present and move into the future. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Wow. This poem is new to me….but I feel like I should tape it up on my bathroom mirror and memorize it. It’s beautiful and a bit un-nerving. How interesting that you have so many clocks to get rid of. I’m itching to spring clean too. I think my bedroom closet is going to catch my energy this weekend. I wonder what I have in triplicate?
    Thanks for the brain food and the beauty. Have a great week.

  7. I suppose that Naomi Nye would not like to spend an afternoon with me, but I would love to meet her, or perhaps I already have. Her poems touch me every time in some certain way. This time, “It will never be finished.” I have used a “project going” before, and parts of that is true, yet really it may never be finished. I love the part about the clocks. I sold or gave away the old family clocks and only have one by the bed. Thanks for sharing about yourself, Tara, and this lovely poem.

  8. I have met Naomi Nye and she is anything but snarky. She is very gentle and generous and kind. But this poem is so great for those of us who are introverts and want to stay that way. Why do people want to change us?
    Best of luck and patience as you continue to clean out and pack up.

  9. This is such a great reminder that our connections are important as a reader. I reread your pre-thinking for selecting this piece a couple of times, just wise thoughts.

  10. I love this poem. With so much attention (especially on Oscar weekend) on fame and on being *seen,* this poem reminds us that we can make another choice.

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