Two Poems

Morning, Lantern

أصبحنا 

Miss Sahar had spoken of this sister, Asbaha—

morning verb. And as she spoke a sun

had risen over her words. It was the most arduous lesson,

one that required a tearing apart at the seams, a loosening

 

of crimson thread cross-stitched in seven-branch

cedars and rows of eglantine. To have

become. More than the desolate stretches

of perseverance, more than the eternally flowering fields

 

of Kaan. To have become. Full fathoms of night

traversed and then a light upon the corrugated metal

and slumped rooftops of the camp,

gilding the limestone of what was or bluing it

 

from sight entirely. To have become. To pass

from one form into another, chrysalis dwellers

finally cutting the wind with our own wings.

Asbaha—sister of the earliest hours:

 

from the edge of sky a call to the smallest prayer

and the sunbirds chorusing, their feathers flashing

sapphire, emerald and Fairuz on the radio, her longing

and the day’s headlines dissolved in our coffee cups. To have

 

become. To sunder a sorrow from our bodies

and rise to soft unburned wicks, to live.

 

[Interior] Manzel

 

To land as after a flight or journey

as a passerine directed by the compass

of its own heart, reclaiming the branch.

As an aircraft leveling toward the well-lit embrace

of the runway, ferrying families to wedding season

and waiting gardens of flower and stone fruit.

 

To land as after a long separation

from earth, after sustained vertigo of descent,

the wandering waterless prayers. To arrive

at the doorstep, at once daughter and ancestor, a poem

forged of unpolished flint and narcissus.

 

To land and it is our first skin and fierce

heartbreak. And it is our anchor

in lightless tumult, it is alphabet and harbor.

The bulldozers lunge with hungry jaws

at each room, the barrels break apart

the sky, bathe the buildings of our neighborhoods

in flames. In order to dismantle a people,

place them in a holding pattern, keep them

in constant flight, circling the map

as you thread barbed wire

across memory, as you absentee presence,

barricade what remains of the streets

stripped of their stories.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. She is the author of Water & Salt (Red Hen Press), winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award, and Arab in Newsland, winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington, and an M.F.A. from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her essays have been published in Kenyon Review Online, the Rumpus, World Literature Today, and Poetry Northwest. Her poetry accolades include an Honorable Mention from the Arab American Book Awards, and several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. They have been translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, and Norwegian, and published in American and international journals. Most recently, her work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mizna, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and the American Academy of Poets’ Poem-A-Day feature. Her chapbook, Letters from the Interior, is forthcoming from Diode Editions.

Barzakh Mag