“How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?” by Naomi Shihab Nye

How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?

When you quietly close
the door to a room
the room is not finished.

It is resting. Temporarily.
Glad to be without you
for a while.

Now it has time to gather
its balls of gray dust,
to pitch them from corner to corner.

Now it seeps back into itself,
unruffled and proud.
Outlines grow firmer.

When you return,
you might move the stack of books,
freshen the water for the roses.

I think you could keep doing this
forever. But the blue chair looks best
with the red pillow. So you might as well

leave it that way.


Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952–

“How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?” from Honeybee
© 2008 Naomi Shihab Nye

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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