To Manage

She writes to me—

I can’t sleep because I’m seventeen

Sometimes I lie awake thinking

I didn’t even clean my room yet

And soon I will be twenty-five

And a failure

And when I’m fifty—oh!

I write her back

Slowly     slow

Clean one drawer

Arrange words on a page

Let them find one another

Find you

Trust they might know something

You aren’t living      the whole thing

At once


That’s what a minute    said to an hour

Without me     you are nothing

“To Manage” from Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye. Copyright © 2018 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with permission of the author. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “Poetry from the On Being Gathering.” Listen to Naomi Shihab Nye’s On Being interview, “Your Life Is a Poem.”