Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian-American poet who has lived in different regions of the world, spanning from Oklahoma to Beirut. She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Eclectica, Copper Nickel and The Journal. Hala’s first full-length collection of poetry, entitled Atrium, was published by Three Rooms Press in New York City earlier this year.

Please visit Hala Alyan’s website: halaalyan.com

Seawater, Awning

In another city, we would call this flood.
Instead it is just rain, housefuls of it
making pockets of the shore. The waves fume.
Some feverish belly,
a lit mouth through the window.
Bridge, umbrella, a better November.
Our cell phones light synaptically—the rain dulls.
We want crisis. Childhood without the sugar castle,
the forest of birds. Seven nationalities yoked
together in this cavern,
we are frantic with love.
I am the slack one, eating a plum without washing
it and writing a song for Hagar waiting
with bare mouth to kiss the ankle
of soil. Every war is a fete
and the thunder parrots itself.
Below find rivers dappled with trash, white
and blue, find the seawater
puckering in sewers that tumbles,
licks our sneakers. Parchment family,
we meet where the wood darkens, ash
powdering our fingertips like kohl.
Always, a television flickers. Theater beneath the glass,
it is kaleidoscope. It is kaleidoscope.
They die, they are always dying,
pleating tin to scrape bone from pavement.
In the garden beneath timber, I brush my hair.
The American boys practice their Arabic.


The Japanese woman plays with a beatific smile,
spotlight bluish on the stage. In between songs
she tells us about her father, who once found a black cat
and named him Sparrow. The violin dips and rises
in her hands. Tiny hands. Like creatures skittering up
and down the long sweeping neck. Across the table,
a man touches my fingers, but I pull them back,
rebraid my hair. The waitress brings us clams, open-
chested, brothed in lemon. I eat with urgency.
The bread is good. During the intermission, the man
asks about the music and I am uncharacteristically honest.
It makes me sad. The man is confused. Like rain, I offer.
In Beirut, when the gunfire began, we blared hip-hop
music and dragged furniture away from the window.
We poured vodka in iceless glasses. One girl drew with red
ink a circus tree while the rest of us huddled on the balcony,
mimicking the soft oh of a Bostonian accent. I sponge
lemon with the crust of bread and wait for the slow
music to begin once more. I want to love this man,
his hands and his questions, to explain the malaise of
Mediterranean rainfall, but I made promises once and yes,
darling, yes, damnit, I remember: our mouths shy
beneath the display of bombwork, the muffled light of
fishing boats, the debris, the cats—always—mewling.

Poetry in this post: © Hala Alyan
Published with the permission of Hala Alyan