Self-Portrait as My Mother

By HALA ALYAN

 

When the warplanes come, I pluck them
from the blue sky like Tic Tacs. The cupboard

is always full of honey and needles. Merlot and Marlboros.
The rumor of America around my neck.

On the third day of the month I bleed a pond,
toss a gun into its mouth. I am the gun.

The chamber empties into a Fairuz song:
Take the color of the trees with you.

California is my safe word. O bird o bird.
The wink of a car on a highway.

I know a nation by its germs. Its endangered water.
The desert is an unborn son and every night

I claim him, his black hair spiky as a cactus.
Give me a fate and I’ll lose it. The border runs

crooked as a love line on a bride’s palm. I sing.
I mop the floors. I can’t kill for enough clean. At the brocantes,

I buy mirrors and clocks, lavender seeds,
birdfeeders, fill my house with the belongings of dead men.

My breasts rise. I read the drugstore horoscopes—
my moon is in Sagittarius, sun’s in Akka,

heaven’s an empty sky, border’s open, there’s nothing
on the other side and isn’t that god enough.

 

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Poetry, Guernica, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series competition. Her debut novel, Salt Houses, was published in 2017 and was the winner of the Arab American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her second novel, The Arsonists’ City, was recently published. Hala lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dog.

[Purchase Issue 22 here.]

Self-Portrait as My Mother

Related Posts

The Hundertwasser House in Vienna

Etude No. 2 and Etude No. 3

KIM CURTS MATTHEUSSENS
in Rome a monumental marble typewriter / ticked out their story into the sky: two lovers / devour time. she lay on the lawn near Trajan's / column. he plucked letters from her dress, / her hair, served them to her by hand, by mouth.

Image of an intensely green trailhead.

December 2022 Poetry Feature: Kevin McIlvoy

KEVIN McILVOY
On mine spoil. In debris fields / of asphalt and concrete and brick. / Upon sites of chemical spills. / Along lifeless riverbanks. / In clonal groves so hardy you / have to steel yourself for years / of killing to kill one acre. / Where construction crews rake off / the surface

field spotted with red flowers

December 2022 Poetry Feature

TOMMYE BLOUNT
It feels good grazing against my skin, / all that satin and muslin—a high / thread count to tuck in / the American Dream. Embroidery / and tassels fit for men like me / who would pay a good buck / to be a part of this invisible kingdom. / Ah! This flair for pageantry / seen in a film—