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Also by Naomi Shihab Nye:
My Friend's Divorce | Keep Driving | Why the Silence Still Hangs Over Eastern Oregon

Keep Driving

My friend steering
her smooth burgundy car
past orange cranes
and complicated shipyards
has always lived Yokohama
but can't fathom where we are.
It is possible this neighborhood
sprang up over the weekend
when we were off
beside the sea.
Massive concrete
like the cover of
an empty notebook.
Tones of gray.
Every day
something changes
in a city.
A woman pulls groceries home
in a metallic cart,
sun bouncing off wheels.
Five thousand beige apartments
but she will find her own
and twist the key.
We respect her.
Iron girders
for a new construction.
Rafters. Pipes.
Legions of coordinated
stoplights.
Atsuko cannot see
any street she recognizes
but one tree
staked to bamboo
in a small clearing
looks vaguely familiar.
She has seen
other trees like that.
And will I keep my eyes
open please?
Let her know
if I spot any clues?
I say remember who
you are talking to
and we laugh
very loudly
which is not something
I thought I would get to do
in Japan this soon.
We veer under highways,
train tracks, clouds.
The red train
zipping smoothly
but all our streets
go one way
the wrong way
and I'm still confused,
her steering wheel
on the right side,
my foot punching
an invisible clutch.
What has she done?
Atsuko keeps apologizing
as we circle shoe shops
dress shops party shops,
obviously her city is bigger
than she thought it was.
Another day we might see
Mount Fuji-san looming
which would help us
get our bearings
but right now
it's invisible.
Right now
it's gray.
Everything is gray.
Only the red train
for punctuation.
She has never been
more lost.
Keep going, I whisper,
Kyoto, Hokkaido,
villages, rice-fields,
how can I be lost or found
if I have never been here
before?
Your hotel is hiding, she says.
But we find the Toyota dock
for the third time
in three hours.
Tricky city clicking its rhythms
into each U-turn, crosswalk,
into the intricate red blood
networks of people,
into the secret hidden dirt.
Soon I will feel as grounded
as the citizens of the foreign cemetery
buried on the one high hill
who came here planning to
leave.

Printed in the Spring/Summer 1997 issue of CLR

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye resides in San Antonio, Texas. Her books of poems include Different Ways to Pray, Hugging the Jukebox (selected for the National Poetry Series by Josephine Miles), Yellow Glove, Red Suitcase, and Words Under the Words.

She was the recipient of the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets and appeared in the PBS series "The Language of Life" with Bill Moyers.

You can find Naomi Shihab Nye on the web at:
—  American Academy of Poets
—  Voices from the Gaps
—  HarperChildrens
—  Organica News
—  Amazon
—  Barnes & Noble
—  The Atlantic Monthly
—  The Austin Chronicle
—  Washington Post


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