"Hidden" Nye
If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has (5)
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood (10)
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees (15)
the fuel that feeds you.

“Hidden” is written in free verse containing three stanzas: a sextet, an octave, and a couplet. It takes on an optimistic view of death by recognizing the benefits of suffering loss in ones life. Though the loved one may be “hidden” from plain sight, his memory lives on while he watches from above as his life inspires the actions of those he left behind. The comparison between a fern beneath a stone and a human being hidden in an after-life from his loved one represents the idea that the deceased may still exist in his element, though only hidden from the naked eye as the fern is under the stone.
From the start of the poem, the hypothetical situation referred to contains a green plant, a fern, which is symbolic of life and is also a plant that requires very little from its environment to grow and prosper. Another element of nature that is referenced in line 2 is the stone, which remains ambiguous insofar as size, but is also a reference to nature and the choice of "stone" over "rock" suggests a larger size, more able to cover and possible crush the fern beneath. The stone could potentially misshape and kill the fern, yet the following lines suggest that the stone only covers the fern and hides it from sight. The phrase, "As if the stone has swallowed it" suggests the idea that the fern has been wholly consumed and will never again surface to the light. The transition between the first and second stanza lies in the replacement of the fern with the name of a loved one, making the situation more applicable to the readers, yet relatable to the initial situation. By pushing a person or memory to the back of one's mind or forgetting him in favor of a new friend, leaving the loved one, as Nye says, “under your tongue too long” you are simply maintaining silence and internalizing the person’s name. In doing so, the repressed memories and experiences are liquefied, compressed into “blood” like petroleum in a pressure-cooker mantel. The blood is obviously essential to life, as is the breath of “sigh” filling the lungs with hope and fuel for the trials ahead as the narrator suggests your loss will fuel your life. The hope is breathed into the body but is apparently “hiding everywhere” possibly in plain sight, but accessible only to those who become receptive of it. The final couplet reveals the idea that without anyone recognizing, the loss and memory of a loved one may inspire the course of your life and become the “fuel that feeds you.”

The theme of hiding and covering up what is truly the flame beneath your wings is prevalent in this poem, as is evident through the title. Hiding may be a voluntary or involuntary act, and in the context of the poem, a loved one may be hiding in the afterlife following a difficult loss, yet his memory may somehow drive his loved ones still living in plain sight (the real world, not the after-life) to strive for their best or use his life “as the fuel that feeds you.”


"Fundamentalism" 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?(5)

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(10)
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(15)

If he would believe his life is like that
he would not follow his father into war

In “Fundamentalism,” Nye utilizes interrogative statements with information setting up a given situation in which the first six stanzas, couplets, are arranged. According to Nye’s background and the title of the poem, one may assume the topic of the poem is the rising popularity in fundamental Islam.

In lines 1-2, Nye questions the impact of a limited vision, or a selective sight of the truth as it may appear around you. The inability of eye to see what truly exists is an obvious handicap, and a person’s challenge “to see over heads in the crowd,” reinforces the idea of an impaired judgment on the reality of a situation. Also, in the context of the poem, I believe that the inability to truly see the facts as they exist is product of a prejudiced household and a childhood in which the fundamentalist ideals are implanted unknowingly into the young Muslim’s core understanding of life. One such idea is hatred of the United States and of Jews. The second stanza suggests the idea of school children or needy adults feeling inferior to others without a strong intellect and convincing arguments and “your own secret.” Inferiority may strongly contribute to involvement in fundamentalist movements as a way to overcome said inferiority and carry out Allah’s will according to extremist values. Needing a secret of one’s own represents the self-righteousness that occurs as a result of involvement in a group and a “claim to fame” or classified information that those outside the group are unable to learn. The third stanza is a single line in which Nye questions the impact of aversion to mystery; those who are unable to cope with the unknown of an after-life or struggling with the question of religion are seemingly prone, then, to fundamentalist beliefs. Therefore, as the following stanza suggests, they turn to find certainty in a single way to “satisfy the infinite heart of the heavens.” As Americans well realize and often assume, fundamentalists are fully willing to blow themselves up in search of pleasing Allah whom they believe will most appreciate their valiant, selfless efforts. The king to whom Nye references in line 8 is, of course, Allah, who remains always on a golden throne. The stanza is suggestive of a preference for God over humanity, which is strictly warned against in Catholicism, as Jesus asserts, “What you do for the least of my brothers you do for Me.” In the context of fundamental activity, the idea of pleasing Allah taking priority over “the villagers carrying baskets of lemons,” evokes in me an image of the suicide hijackers of 9/11 who Allah and their perception of His will above the numerous lives of human beings who were so tragically lost that fateful day in our history. The fact that the villagers carry lemons suggests their quant and modest existences in which they are no enemy of the Lord, living extravagantly and without regard for the lowly. The idea presented in the final couplet suggests the aspiration to ascend into a bubbly, happy after-life without any second-guesses from the guards. The after-life awaiting a Muslim martyr as the poem suggests, is a “party.” The way in which Muslims hope to achieve said after-life is through the accordance with Shariah law, their central teachings which are often disputed among Shia and Sunni as well as moderates and fundamentalists. The situation described in the following stanza suggests that the boy is young and in school with a broken pencil which he hopes to mend through sharpening it with a knife. The innocence and simplicity of the situation and the boy himself suggest a youth which has yet to be scarred by the effects of fundamentalist ideals, yet in the final couplet, this idea is foiled by the alleged involvement of the boy in a war which he obediently follows his father into. The “war” as it is referenced may literally refer to a war or may be representative of a fundamentalist attack on non-believers. If the boy saw his life as “sharpen-able” or able to be changed and re-invented, he may not, so mindlessly submit himself to a lifestyle which he himself has not completely come to understand, much less support.

Muslim Prayer
"Different Ways To Pray" Nye

1 There was the method of kneeling,
2 a fine method, if you lived in a country
3 where stones were smooth.
4 The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
5 hidden corners where knee fit rock.
6 Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
7 small calcium words uttered in sequence,
8 as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
9 fuse them to the sky.

10 There were the men who had been shepherds so long
11 they walked like sheep.
12 Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
13 Hear us! We have pain on earth!
14 We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
15 But the olives bobbed peacefully
16 in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
17 At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
18 and were happy in spite of the pain,
19 because there was also happiness.

20 Some prized the pilgrimage,
21 wrapping themselves in new white linen
22 to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
23 When they arrived at Mecca
24 they would circle the holy places,
25 on foot, many times,
26 they would bend to kiss the earth
27 and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

28 While for certain cousins and grandmothers
29 the pilgrimage occurred daily,
30 lugging water from the spring
31 or balancing the baskets of grapes.
32 These were the ones present at births,
33 humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
34 The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
35 forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

36 There were those who didn’t care about praying.
37 The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
38 They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
39 They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
40 for the twig, the round moon,
41 to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

42 And occasionally there would be one
43 who did none of this,
44 the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
45 who beat everyone at dominoes,
46 insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
47 and was famous for his laugh.

The method of kneeling referred to in line 1 references prayerful kneeling, or genuflecting practiced in many religions as a reminder of our humble nature as compared to our God, or Allah. In lines 2 and 3, the method is described as “fine” indeed; it must be in certain places, yet in others, the opening suggests that kneeling may not be the common practice in prayer; the kneeling may only be a custom in countries where they have “smooth stones.” Women in prayer, as it is revealed in lines 4 and 5, often daydream of material things rather than focusing on their prayer, which leaves them empty and without fulfillment; instead, they spend their time reciting “withered rib bones.” The uselessness of the prayers is made evident through imagery in line 7 when Nye suggests the strength and power of the “calcium” words, but in the context of rote recitation, their value is reduced to nothing. In lines 8 and 9, Nye asserts that the women are merely attempting to “fuse the words to the sky,” rather than feeling their deeply rooted meaning, seemingly to carryout their religious duties rather than to truly communicate openly and truly with Allah. Also the wording of line 8 suggests that the prayers are “shed” to the sky like pounds from a dieting woman; the action is carried out only for the end-result of pleasing Allah and the Church or in order to look slimmer. Lines 10 and 11 shift the focus of the poem to the men of faith in the society who are seemingly dedicated, life-long shepherds, devoted wholly to their flocks. In line 12, “Under the olive trees” suggests the peaceful lives they lead because olive trees often symbolize peace. “They raised their arms” in line 12 not only suggests a juxtaposition between the prayerful kneeling and recitation of prayers practiced by the women in the first stanza, but it also evokes a sense of desperation in which the men had become so worn down as to plead Allah for relief from their “pain on Earth.” Rather than sitting humbly as an obligation (like the aforementioned women), the men cry out, “Hear us,” begging that Allah may take pity. Their prayers are quite opposite, yet both may be heard by our God. Line 15 reveals that despite the pain and suffering of the shepherds, the olives continued to bob, and life moved on without answer to their pleas. The buckets of vinegar and thyme mentioned in line 16 must be a cultural reference, because I don’t understand their relevance to the meaning of the sentence or the stanza as a whole. Despite the pain they endured throughout the days, at night the men would enjoy full meals and experienced happiness in spire of their conditions. The phrasing in lines 18 and 19 suggests the idea of yin/yan in which a balance is established between the good and the bad in the world, so that despite the pain the men felt, they also felt true happiness. Line 20 begins with and explanation of the value and respect granted the “pilgrimage” [to Mecca which is a custom in Islam]. The custom as line 21 begins, is one in which men wrap themselves in white linen and travel vast distances, or “to ride buses across miles of vacant sand” in order to reach Mecca and carryout the ritual circling of the Kabba, a holy black box of Islam. The seeming ridiculous nature of the practice is subtly revealed through lines 23 through 27 in which Nye explains that they circle the holy places repeatedly, on foot, then bend and kiss the sand on which their feet have stood. The mystery that fills the men after kissing the earth is ambiguous to me as a reader, though to a Muslim, the meaning may be better grasped. Line 28 suggests the familial ties in which many Muslims around the world have family that lives close enough to Mecca to travel and pray there daily, a privilege unknown to most Muslims. As they carry out their daily tasks of “lugging water from the spring or balancing buckets of grapes,” they are obliged to kneel and face the visible holy places which most Muslims see only once in a lifetime. As Nye explains in lines 32-35, these relatives are so highly regarded and live such relatively luxurious lives that they are requested to be present at births of new generations. Through their “intricate needlework,” their deep admiration of a child and attention to detail is lost to the reality of a child’s inability to remain clean for long. Line 36 suggests a theme closely tied to “The Kite Runner;” the rift between the older and the younger generations is one that can easily tear a family apart. The irresponsible children, “The ones who had been to America” and had (note a connotation) therefore become tainted with freedoms and culture unknown to them in their homelands. Rebelling from the rote style of prayer and religion in which they were raised, the “old ones prayed for the young ones” because the young ones claimed that the prayers were a waste of time. The old ones clung desperately to their faith and prayed that Allah may interfere and restore the young to be obedient, faithful young ones. They prayed “for the twig, the round moon, to speak suddenly in a commanding tone,” their desperation reaches a point that nature may turn the children (through Allah, of course) back to prayer and back to their old faiths. The “commanding tone” (in line 41) which the old ones hope for suggests the perceived need for “law and order” so as to ensure the proper upholding of traditions in the community. The final stanza reveals the sole exception to the rule of the worried and desperate old ones, hoping for their youth to return to Allah. The exception, named Fowzi was pinned as a “fool,” and outcast for his indifference to the choices and prayers of the young ones. The fact that he beat everyone at dominoes suggests the Fowzi found greater joy in life through his experiences rather than his mindless prayers and preoccupation with the affairs of others outside of himself. Lines 46 and 47 absolutely took me by storm. The meaning of the simple sentence is that without worrying about the proper ways in which he was to worship, Fowzi found a way to talk to Allah as he would talk to a goat, or a friend. Once he found God to be assessable, all the stresses of rote prayer were lost to the wind, and the joy and simplicity with which he could then live allowed him to gain fame and recognition for the laugh that inspired all of those around him.
For me this poem speaks volumes because despite my involvement as a CCD teacher and retreat leader, I sometimes find the practices of the Church to be too formal for my tastes, and as I can certainly see, the practices of Islam are very traditional and formal as well. What this poem really tells me is that you must find God in your own way, be that through an established faith or on your own, so that you and God may form a relationship and communicate openly. The happiness and completion you will feel when you have done so will unlock so many doors and allow you to experience life in a way you may never have thought possible.