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.
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.