You know it’s spring when, just after sunset, the refrigerator constellation rises in the western sky.
(But seriously, remember that our perspective on the stars is at the same time wonderfully unique but not at all special, and the stellar stories that we write are products not only of our imaginations, but also our brain’s relentless desire to recognize patterns in random assortments of far away dots)
My husband, photographer Michael Nye, once photographed in a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp for days, and was followed around by a little girl who wanted to photograph her. FInally, he did — and she held up a stone with a poem etched into it. (This picture appears on the cover of my collection of poems, 19 Varieties of Gazelle — Poems of the Middle East). Through a translator, Michael understood that the poem was “her poem” — that’s what she called it. We urged my dad to translate the verse, which sounded vaguely familiar, but without checking roundly enough, we quoted the translation on the book flap and said she had written the verse. Quickly, angry scholars wrote to me pointing out that the verse was from a famous Darwish poem. I felt terrible.
I was meeting him for the first and last time the next week. Handing over the copy of the book sheepishly, I said: “Please forgive our mistake. If this book ever gets reprinted, I promise we will give the proper credit for the verse.” He stared closely at the picture. Tears ran down his cheeks. “Don’t correct it,” he said. “It is the goal of my life to write poems that are claimed by children.”
Naomi Shihab Nye, from her essay “Remembering Mahmoud Darwish”(via commovente)