My neighbor asks me to get that strange man out of her house.
Pounds on my door—he’s there again, send him away. That’s your man, your husband, you know him, you’ve been together 35 years.
She won’t be convinced. She wants to go home. Wants her mother, sisters, everyone
who died. She wants my own mother who’s sitting on the couch.
Says she’s going to the little house and never coming back. Of that, she may be right.
We all are. But tonight the young couple on bicycles whizzing down the block
in the pause between rains could be us, 40 years ago, I swear I had that shirt.
And the man who trained his dog Henry in the park for months during the pandemic
was someone kind to me in childhood, someone who always waved as children rode by,
and the neighbor from Germany just found out she has another son
she never knew about. Maybe it’s you. Who are we all, in the big picture?
The doctor down the block leaves us music. At Mona’s, I drop off soup. We grew up
in a blur of green hope, so reckless, it’s a miracle we made it this far. When our grandson
says kids are funner than adults, I feel his age, and my sweet dead father
keeps speaking through him half the time, so how can we live without being confused?
Just know this. We’re not alone and never were. It’s okay to answer to any name.
We came down a long track, then sat there waiting, patient at the signal.
Every person in every body had something similar going on,
was hungry, impatient, or scared, or broke, and the ones who were dying
when we were children are still here somewhere, giving us counsel,
trying to guide us toward the street with an overpass,
and the people inside the train cars are waving their hands.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate. Her most recent books are Everything Comes Next: Collected & New Poems, Cast Away, The Tiny Journalist, and Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. (page at the Poetry Foundation)