Building off of last week’s theme of story work, this week’s poem – “The Story, Around the Corner” by Naomi Shihab Nye – presents another side of stories.
Here, a story takes on human attributes, including free will. The logic of the poem develops the idea of a story as being out of our hands, being made up of “[riffs] of common talk.” This logic then deepens; lines discussing “a city you don’t live in, where people / might shop forever or throw a thousand stories / away” have great yet nuanced implications. The story as entity is a creature of chance and circumstance, much like ourselves.
Because the language remains nonspecific, we are in the position as readers to intuit the “story” of the poem in our own way. It’s the kind of poem I like to meditate on during stressful times because it speaks at a register that is heard before I can resist. Not sure if that make sense. What I’m getting at is that at the end of reading the poem, I am left with my own idea of the “story” knocking and waiting for an answer — and, for a moment, I glimpse what it would it would be like to give one.
The Story, Around the Corner – Naomi Shihab Nye
is not turning the way you thought
it would turn, gently, in a little spiral loop,
the way a child draws the tail of a pig.
What came out of your mouth,
a riff of common talk.
As a sudden weather shift on a beach,
sky looming mountains of cloud
in a way you cannot predict
or guide, the story shuffles elements, darkens,
takes its own side. And it is strange.
Far more complicated than a few phrases
pieced together around a kitchen table
on a July morning in Dallas, say,
a city you don’t live in, where people
might shop forever or throw a thousand stories
away. You who carried or told a tiny bit of it
aren’t sure. Is this what we wanted?
Stories wandering out,
having their own free lives?
Maybe they are planning something bad.
A scrap or cell of talk you barely remember
is growing into a weird body with many demands.
One day soon it will stumble up the walk and knock,
knock hard, and you will have to answer the door.