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By Naomi Shihab Nye

Because the eye has a short shadow or

it is hard to see over heads in the crowd?

If everyone else seems smarter

but you need your own secret?

If mystery was never your friend?

If one way could satisfy

the infinite heart of the heavens?

If you liked the king on his golden throne

more than the villagers carrying baskets of lemons?

If you wanted to be sure

his guards would admit you to the party?

            The boy with the broken pencil

            scrapes his little knife against the lead

            turning and turning it as a point

            emerges from the wood again

            If he would believe his life is like that

            he would not follow his father into war

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Fundamentalism” from Fuel. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used by the permission of BOA Editions Ltd.,

Source: Fuel (BOA Editions Ltd., 1998)

  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye’s mixed heritage—her father is Palestinian, her mother is American—shapes the subjects of her poetry. Through mostly free verse, Nye often writes about everyday life while addressing cultural issues. Nye has traveled extensively, including to the Middle East and Asia to promote goodwill through the arts. She is the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate. See More By This Poet

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