Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Poem That Changed My Life

I can remember the exact moment that my life changed. Or, at least the exact moment that shifted my life's direction just a few degrees, which would eventually, after enough distance traveled, greatly alter my destination.

Don Barrow, taught English at Star Valley High School. Don lived a full and interesting life long before I entered his classroom, and long before he even began teaching. He taught me, my junior year at that high school and shared a poem with me. The poem, by Naomi Shihab Nye, is "The Art of Disappearing."

At the time of hearing the poem I was reconciling the pressure to "stay cool" and "popular," and keeping everyone happy, with perusing avenues in life that felt more... well... less empty.

The poem taught me that it's OK to say no. That it's OK to have old friends, and keep them as old friends. I mean, after all, sometimes we all want to become a cabbage.

Thank you Don Barrow; you are not forgotten.

The Art of Disappearing (mp3 link)
The Art Of Disappearing (Naomi Shihab Nye)

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together.
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.


  1. We are different beings entirely in the space of 2 years. Different molecules. Different energy. It's OK to acknowledge that without guilt.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Glad you diverted your path or many of us would be deprived of one sweet bundle of gleeful manchild!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I absolutely love it.