Two countries is a beautiful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. The poem is clearly inspired by the poet's own life as she is a woman of two worlds: Palestine and America. Nye makes use of an extended metaphor throughout the piece, representing herself as skin. This is done in a double entendre sort of way, symbolizing a negative connotation in the first stanza and weaving its way into a positive meaning in the last.
In the first part of the poem, skin is utilized for its description of being the exterior of a person. The poem states, “Skin ate, walked, slept” suggesting that people recognized Nye’s actions, but only on the surface (Nye 5-6). They saw her as a passerby without disclosing the person she is underneath the skin. This is also apparent from the line which reads, “Skin is not touched a gray tunnel of singleness, feather lost from the tail of a bird” (Nye 2-3). Because people haven’t taken the time to get to know her, Nye feels extremely lonely. Without making real connections with people she walks around unnoticed like the feathers which are swept off the tail of a bird. The poet continues to stress this point of exteriority by writing "but skin felt it was never seen, never known" (Nye 8-9). Even though people saw her it’s as if they saw through her. They didn’t understand the multifaceted woman that she is; a woman of complex identity because of her attachment to two countries.
However hope is not lost for Nye. She believes that in the same way which skin can re-grow and heal wounds, patchwork can be made in the way which people view her. Her optimism is pronounced in the words, “skin hopes… heals over scared places, makes a road” (Nye 13-14). Playing on skin’s ability to heal, and create new she wishes the same for the relationships she has with others. She dreams of deep relationships with others where her complexity is embraced. She explains that “love means you breathe in two countries “(Nye 15). She wants to be loved and appreciated for her...
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