A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Even Walt Whitman was confused. Who has rights
and who doesn’t? Are white people superior to others?
How did we miss this news in grade school,
holding Whitman’s words on our tongues
like honey lozenges? Or recently,
reading new biographies of Whitman,
where is this confusing detail?
Whitman, what was wrong with you?
You were a product of your generation – no excuse.
May we still love your poems?
But wait! Why is it so amazing
when Bernie Sanders says Palestinians have been treated unfairly?
Thank you, Bernie! We rise from our seats, stunned.
A politician speaking truth on this topic! At long last.
Even Hillary Clinton (who once read from my poems
at a dinner celebrating Palestinians) seems to forget
(children flattened in school buildings, Gaza the giant prison,
decades of thievery, lost land/orchards/roadways, intense oppression,
daily insults at gunpoint, cruelty glamorized, no due process)
when she intones about Israel protecting itself.
Why has Israel needed so much protection?
Where is your sense of story?
Could there be a problem with this story from the start?
Thank you, Bernie Sanders!
Bernie knows about injustice. Isn’t afraid to say.
President Obama knows. Jimmy Carter knew,
could say “apartheid” – got in trouble for it.
Bernie saw things with his own eyes
when he lived in Israel on a kibbutz.
We get everything, you get nothing.
Nothing plus nothing equals years of nothing.
Hand in hand requires shared place to stand.
Enough Inequity wearing pious clothes!
Decades of spin. Respect and dignity still abiding…
though kid soldiers with weapons purchased by us
tried to muffle it.
Bernie knows – one-sided life won’t work, has to end.
Says it straight.
Try balance, justice, care.
Not looking for a pay-off. Say more, Bernie – could be
the turn history has needed.
Since when did honesty become this rare?
Copyright 2016 Naomi Shihab Nye