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TRYING TO NAME WHAT DOESN’T CHANGE
by Naomi Shihab Nye 

Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change   
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery   
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.
 
Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train   
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.   
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.
 
Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.   
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.
 
Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.   
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.
 
The train whistle still wails its ancient sound   
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.
***
“Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change” appears in Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995).

PHOTO: “Train Tracks, Mexico” by James Maher, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. To see more of the photographer’s work, visit  jamesmaherphotography.com.