Poetry - Issue 17 | March 2013


by Hala


A quartet of chickens squawk
and the smell is cinnamon and
shit. One man calls out to me in
Hebrew, another Arabic. Both
carry crates. A peddler says his
necklace of gold and orange
beads will help me marry, and
some teenagers grin, flash teeth
coconut white as the muezzin
calls for prayer, for the pull of
bodies tired and brown and soft
to the ground, as though God
spread this land like a gypsy’s
pillowcase, littered with silver
hills and slinging rivers, stars
like scarab pendants. I ask for
Gaza, and a woman ushers a
piece of bread into my mouth,
says the art is in the pinchful
of sumac. The city—an engine,
a specimen—shakes with the
voices hawking mixed candies,
almonds, veils the precise tint
of pomegranate flesh, tin stars
painted white. Bateekh bateekh
kousa kousa
. I smell like dirt,
or bread. A boy at the refugee
camp taps his cigarette, waves
widely as though he is erasing
something. Every day I walk the
winding road east to the cluster
of buses. I ask for Nablus. I ask
for Hebron. I ask for Jaffa.

About the author

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian-American poet who is currently working towards her doctorate in clinical psychology. She has lived in over a dozen cities, from Oklahoma to Beirut. A winner of the 2012 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival Competition, Hala’s favorite place to write is on airplanes, trains and subways. Her work can be found in The Dirty Napkin, Eclectica, and The Journal. Read her first full-length poetry collection, Atrium.

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