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50TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE WHY I COULD NOT ACCEPT YOUR INVITATION Besides the fact that your event is coming up in three weeks on the other side of the world and you just invited me now, your fax contained the following phrases: action-research oriented initiative; regionally based evaluation vehicles; culture should impregnate all different sectors; consumption of cultural products; key flashpoints in thematic areas. Don’t get me wrong, I love what you are doing, believing in art and culture, there, in the country next to the country my country has been devastating in the name of democracy, but that is not the language I live in and so I cannot come. I live in teaspoon, bucket, river, pain, turtle sunning on a brick. Forgive me. Culture is everything right about now. But I cannot pretend a scrap of investment in the language that allows human beings to kill one another systematically, abstractly, distantly. The language wrapped around 37,000, or 100,000, or whatever the number today, dead and beautiful bodies thrown into holes without any tiny, reasonable goodbye. Naomi Shihab Nye NAOMI SHIHAB NYE is the Observer’s poetry editor. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to an American mother and a Palestinian father. At the age of seven, she published her first poem. When she was 14, her family moved to Jerusalem, where she attended high school for a year. Her family then moved to San Antonio, where she lives today with her husband and son. 38 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/3/04