art of resistance, Palestine

Hala Alyan: Poems like spears.

Couple of months ago, I posted Hala Alyan’s poem Dear Gaza, I’m sorry together with the photos by Jehad Nga, from his series Something in the way (Iraq, 2010.).

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.

Hala-picHala Alyan /photo © Three Rooms Press/

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 
that find 
Sahar and her sisters,
ink-haired quartet,
like constellations 
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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s