Walking Together: Gate A-4


Naomi Shihab Nye
In Gate-A-4, acclaimed poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, shares her experience of people coming together amid a crisis at the airport. The music acts as like a move score, embodying the emotion in the text.

Commissioned by: 

Funded in part by a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) Community Arts Grant, Thank you to our donors, Jesse Tomme Salon, Orchard Dental Group and White Bear Animal Hospital


November 5, 2017



Published by: 

Hickory Street Publishing: The Music of Catherine Dalton
Item Voicing Media Price
HSP-304-01 violin, cello, and vibraphone $5.00


Gate A-4

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her — southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag –
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers –
Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands –
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
– has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.

Critical Acclaim: 

“What a great program. The music was amazing and the speakers were wonderful. I hope there are plans for more events like this." - audience member

"I am a junior at Mahtomedi High School and a co-founder of S.A.F.E(Students Advocating for Equity). I serve on the Walking Together Board and will be a reader the night of the event. I jumped at the chance to be a part of this project so that I could bring the community together with a common interest in music. I fell in love with the writings because they show how important it is to love and embrace the background of yourself." - Walking Together Advisory Board member and reader

“A phenomenal, memorable production!” - audience member

Program Notes: 

A Reimagining of Community through Story, Music, and Shared Experiece

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