cover image Red Suitcase

Red Suitcase

Naomi Shihab Nye. BOA Editions, $20 (90pp) ISBN 978-1-880238-14-1

Here Nye's (Yellow Glove) poems travel from American attics to the rutted roads of Palestine. Most focus on details of daily life; throughout, the narrator maintains an obsession with letters, the only object able to journey safely between discrete worlds. Some letters, like that in ''Sincerely,'' arrive humbly, ''having lost faith of finding/ either name written on it.'' The more passionate letters in ''Saved'' are burnt before a lover and turn to ash. Other poems explore memory; ''Lullaby for Regret'' does full justice to the ''thin sliver/ that needles my wake.'' Nye writes quietly. Her cool distance is her best talent, for when she approaches charged topics like conflict and death, she tends to offer unsatisfying metaphors and puny images. Her discourse on war, ''For the 500th Dead Palestinian, Ibtisam Bozieh,'' rings hollow, from title to conclusion. ''Shoulders,'' the final poem, strains to carry both a child and the book on its back, and its invocation to children as ''the world's most sensitive cargo'' is rote. Nye's strength is her ability to express subtle emotions; weightier issues overwhelm her small, clear voice. (Oct.)