When our English teacher gave
our first writing invitation of the year,
Become a kitchen implement
in 2 descriptive paragraphs, I did not think
butcher knife or frying pan,
I thought immediately
of soft flour showering throught the little holes
of the sifter and the sifter’s pleasing circular
swishing sound, and wrote it down.
Rhoda became a teaspoon, Roberto a funnel, Jim a muffin time
and Forrest a soup pot.
We read our paragraphs out loud.
Abby was a blender. Everyone laughed
and acted but the more we thought about it,
we were all everything in the whole kitchen,
drawers and drainers,
singing teapot and grapefruit spoon
with serrated edges, we were all the
empty cup, the tray.
This, said our teacher, is the beauty of metaphor.
It opens doors.
What I could not know then
was how being a sifter
would help me all year long.
When bad days came
I would close my eyes and feel them passing
through the tiny holes.
When good days came
I would try to contain them gently
the way flour remains
in the sifter until you turn the handle.
Time, time. I was a sweet sifter in time
and no one ever knew.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Sifter