Naomi Shihab Nye

The Whole Self

“You put your whole self in
You put your whole self out
Whole self in and you shake it all about.”
                      The Hokey Pokey

When I think of the long history of the self
on its journey to becoming the whole self, I get tired.
It was the kind of trip you keep making,

Over and over again, the bag you pack and repack so often
the shirts start folding themselves the minute
you take them off.

I kept detailed notes in a brown notebook, I could tell you
when the arm joined, when it fell off again,
when the heart found the intended socket and settled down to pumping.

I could make a map of lost organs, the scrambled liver,
the misplaced brain. Finally finally we met up with one another
on a street corner, in October, during the noon rush.

I could tell you what I was wearing. How suddenly
the face of the harried waitress made sense. I gave my order
in a new voice. Spoke the word vegetables like a precious code.

Had one relapse at a cowboy dance in Bandera, Texas,
under a sky so fat the full moon
was sitting on top of us.

Give me back my villages, I moaned,
the ability to touch and remove the hand
without losing anything.

Take me off this mountain where six counties are visible at once.
I want to remember what it felt like, loving by inches.
You put the whole self—I’ll keep with the toe.

But no, it was like telling the eye not to blink.
The self held on to its perimeters, committed forever,
as if the reunion could not be reversed.

I jumped inside the ring, all of me. Dance, then, and I danced,
till the room blurred like water, like blood, dance,
and I was leaning headlong into the universe.

Dance! The whole self was a current, a fragile cargo.
A raft someone was paddling through the jungle,
and I was there, waving, and I would be there at the other end.