Alyan is a Palestinian-American poet and writer. She was the winner of the 2012 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival Competition and her first book of poetry, Atrium (Three Rooms Press), won the 2013 Arab American Book Award. It was a powerful debut, and I am sure we’ll hear much more about Alyan’s poetry in the future.
Today, I am posting two of her poems, Sahar & Her Sisters and Icon.
Sahar & her Sisters
Ink-haired quartet, born summers apart, they left
their mother gasping, mouth dry. Womb limp
as a starfish. Their father set fire to the midwife after the
fourth, rammed into his wife bark etched with holy verses
to free her of the cancer that is girl. This is what is meant by setting.
Sahar and her sisters move like snakes through the seasons, cinder-
eyed, dizzy-hearted. They dig lungs in the soil. Elongated bones,
lunching on goat meat, they grow with the chaos of carnivores.
This is what is meant by lullaby. Sahar and her sisters call each
other Magda, short for Magdalene, short for the disaster of fetus.
They apprentice within gynic hallways. Uterus as asylum to the
things they learn to erase. What does not wither will grow and
Sahar and her sisters build a hut at the river’s edge, charge
camel bones for their magic. The women arrive. Feather-spined,
earth-damned and tired, they come to be emptied. This is what
is meant by mercy. Clusters, token of semen and humidity, dahlia-
tinted, they are a luxury of red. A froth. Sahar and her sisters train
their own ovaries like a militia. Menstruate with the precision of
choir practice. This is what is meant by romance. When a story comes
to the village about women who love women, women who drain
women, the fathers say, Close your legs, daughters. Say,
You don’t love the way that I love so that can’t be love.
It is foxes,
foxes that come
river’s edge, foxes
Sahar and her sisters,
from the trees.
While the moon stoops in the early April sky,
I fold paper into a tragic crane. One magician
burns sand, another palms a tree. My crane
flickers her lovely neck and weeps. After the fire,
everything smelled of chartreuse, a red that
guttered in the neighbor’s dreams. A piano
turns bodies magnetic with music. I want to break
myself like egg for you, to pool in gold and lost.
For more on Alyan and her poetry, visit her official website.