Photo by Pieter Stockmans

“Syrian refugees go about their business in 
a refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan . . .” 

Ropes on poles, jeans & shirts flapping in wind.
He sits on a giant bag of rice, head in hands. 

Too much or too little, rips & bursts & furrows. 
Something seared in a pan. 

If you knew a mother, any mother, you would care
for mothers, yes? No.  

What it is to be lonesome for stacked papers
on a desk, under glass globe, 

brass vase with standing pencils,
new orders. 

How quickly urgencies of doing disappear. 
And where is the child from the next apartment,

whose crying kept him awake
these last terrible months?  

Where do you file this unknowing?

Photo by Shevaun Williams

Naomi Shihab Nye is the laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature and author or editor of more than thirty books, one of which—19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East—was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her novel Habibi, which members of the jury read when selecting her for the NSK Prize, has been translated into five languages and received five “Best Book” awards. Her most recent collections include There Is No Long Distance Now (short stories) and Transfer(poems). Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2009 Nye was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

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