Poem: Positivism

Poem: Positivism

from our poet of the month, Naomi Shihab Nye

Getty/ Grandfailure

“Hopeful as a pencil sharpened, / clear as one beam of light landing on the table’s far side.”


My friend in Gaza writes to me:
Gaza Strip is really so wonderful . . . regardless of the siege . . . the sea port,
the green fields, peaceful roads decorated with many red, pink, white and
orange flowering trees, decent people, elegant restaurants and hotels with
fascinating views . . . We wish . . . the crossing borders are always open
where we can travel freely and friends can come to visit us freely as well . . .

Fresh as a new notebook—that’s how anyone wanted to live.

Hopeful as a pencil sharpened,
clear as one beam of light landing on the table’s far side.

The children dove into a story and flew far away.

Even those who had never been to an airport
or seen a plane land at close range.

This was our superpower, retaining imagination
in worst days. They smiled shyly.

They expressed no blame.

Listen to Naomi read Positivism:

Naomi Shihab Nye shared her insight with Spirituality & Health:

The first quote in this poem comes from a friend of mine who runs a reading and writing club in Gaza. I have visited with her teenaged students via Google Chat and am amazed at their cheeriness, while living in the world's "largest open-air prison." I think about them all the time—how they don't complain—how they sizzle with interested questions and good humor. If our government could see and know them, how could the United States ever embolden Israeli attacks,(we give them the weapons, after all), on such a humble poverty-stricken place? 

These kids are human beings with the same hopes as kids on any block in the USA. A lack of imagination often seems to me to be the root of so many troubles in this world.  But these kids don't lack it. Basically, that is all they have. 

Plus those nice flowers, mentioned by their leader...

Shihab Nye on the story behind The Tiny Journalist:

(Janna Jihad Ayyad is a Palestinian youth activist and amateur journalist who began posting videos when she was seven years old.)   

“When I heard about Janna Jihad Ayyad I became fascinated by her. I heard this child, was posting videos of what was going on in her village, which is very close to the village my palestianian grandmother ended up in. The Tiny Journalist came out of a merging of perspectives with a cross-generational story of what is going on in Palestine. 

I tried not to write in her voice. In these poems, it’s my voice, or perhaps the collective voice, since I do skype video calls with many children in Gaza. 

In our current, crazy times, more people need to speak out about facts and stories that they know. That’s one thing I’ve always been fascinated by in different spiritual traditions. What are the stories behind the belief.? What are the stories that were told to encourage people to follow this path?”

(Read more about Naomi's life of poetry in our re/VIEW featured in our November/December issue.)

"Positivism" from The Tiny Journalist. © 2019 by Naomi Shihab Nye. BOA Editions, Ltd.,

More Poems from Naomi Shihab Nye:

And That Mysterious Word Holy

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