Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Making a Fist

I love this poem, first introduced to me many years ago by my good friend Nelda. I taught it to my students today, and it almost made me cry.

Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later, I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I, who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

When I first read this poem, my mother had passed away two years earlier. I was making some major life decisions, and I felt lost without her. I remember telling myself that I just had to keep "making a fist."

Almost five years later, why do I still feel like that little girl, "lying in the backseat behind all of my questions, clenching and opening one small hand"?


  1. I can't believe you know someone named Nelda. I thought my Grandma was the only person named Nelda. Great poem.

  2. Rachel, this is so beautiful.
    You are such an amazing person.

  3. I second what Sarah said. We all do sometimes. I love that poem too. Glad we got to talk earlier. Love you.

  4. Great poem. You can go ahead and laugh at me now. I was on the 4th line when I thought "Who writes a poem about a car accident?" And then sure I was wrong by the end of the second stanza.
    Once you are done with your little chuckle, know that I love you and keep making that fist!

  5. Thanks for the poem it's not just beautiful but soo true. I'll be making fists from now on for the long road that awaits us.

  6. Amen, sister. And to Sarah's comment above.


I love hearing from you!! Thanks for the comment!