feed him for three days before asking who he is


The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.”

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Red Brocade” (1952)

Notes: Image Source: Rice Nice Recipes, Every Hour. Poem Source: “who are you really, wanderer?” (via Schonwieder)



  1. Beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE this…and the poet. Thank you for posting this one David. I’ve read a whole lot of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry, but have not seen this one before.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This made me cry and more homesick than I’ve ever been for the past 25 years.
    I come from the outskirts of the city of Yafa. Right on the Mediterranean. I’ve never been there. I was born outside.
    We are bedouin shepherds/nomads originally.
    Though I never really lived the bedouin life, I see strong evidence of it.
    On my father’s side.
    We take huge pride in that.
    Our guests and hospitality are our honor.
    If the guest fell in love with one of the daughters of the house, and the daughter shared that feeling, the father can’t say no.
    An old tradition that is not practiced anymore is that the male cousins are the first in line.
    But we have a saying “A guest can bring his girl down from the horse”
    The horse that was carrying her to her cousins house.
    Also, if a guest that committed a crime came running to us, the people after him from another tribe cannot touch him.
    He is in our hands, safe, for as long as he/she wishes, or until we help him/her reach an agreement with the other people.
    I know where Naomi gets it from.
    Bless you David.
    This stirred up history and stories long forgotten.
    And I’m homesick 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Where have those days gone? Nowadays everyone doubts each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like Indira, I love the underlying message here. Seems like everyone is so quick to judge (and often condemn) based on appearances, hearsay, etc. these days. When I lived in Boston, I took a plate of cookies to the new neighbors next door. The lady of the house cracked the door open and looked at me like I’d just offered her a hand grenade. I’m sure she tossed the whole plate as soon as she closed the door. Sigh…. I grew up in the Midwest. You extend your hand to others, regardless of whether they’re known to you.

    Anyhoo, just love Nye’s thinking–I still haven’t gotten over Gate A-4…..

    Liked by 4 people

  6. A beautiful message for us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It does make one think of differences in Cultures and in priorities nowadays…. Connecting with each other’s goodness is something I hope we can still aspire to.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. i love this so very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was particularly delighted to see this quite AND bit of cultural information brought to light because I am an American living and working in Kuwait. You still find echoes of this – the spirit- especially among the Bedouins.

    Liked by 1 person

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