The Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Meditations January/February 2000

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The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where heís come from,
where heís headed.
That way, heíll have strength enough
to answer.
Or, by then youíll be such good friends
you donít care.

Letís go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
Thatís the armor everyone put on
at the end of the century
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, photographer Michael Nye, and their son.  Her recent books include Fuel (poems), Habibi (a novel for teens), Sittiís Secrets (a picture book), What Have You Lost? (an anthology of poems) and The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems & Paintings from the Middle East.

Reprinted from PRAYERS FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, Blessings and Expressions of Hope for the New Millennium, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (editors of Earth Prayers), HarperSanFrancisco, 1999.

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