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The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

Everybody is asking me why I am not myself. I want to laugh—I haven’t been myself for quite some time now. Let’s try a few years, even. There’s been a lot of debate inside my head where I currently am, or where I’ve been, or where I’m off to. It’s just the body that remains. A refusal, maybe. Or the last remaining anchor to what is physical.

There’s work to do, my calendar reminds me. My inbox reminds me. My desk reminds me. My wallet reminds me. The day reminds me, the week that was, the week that will be. It’s time to go back.

My knees ache. I remember walking and walking and walking, a map in my hands, the possibilities in my head. I am not here. I am not myself.

The Art of Disappearing
Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

This is from Words Under Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, published by Far Corner Books, 1995.

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