Laura J. Braverman

Laura J. Braverman

Laura Johanna Braverman is a writer and artist. She is the author of Salt Water (Cosmographia Books, 2019). Her poems have appeared in Reliquiae, Plume, Levure Litteraire, Rusted Radishes, New Plains Review, and California Quarterly, among other journals, and in the anthology Awake in the World, vol. II. She is currently a doctoral candidate in poetry at Lancaster University. Austro-American by birth and upbringing, she lives in Lebanon with her family.

Remember Me (Dido’s Lament)




She is born to a Phoenician king in Tyre. By brother cheated of her birthright, husband killed. With her retinue, Alashiya sails westward over Mediterranean waters. Near Utica, north Africa, she asks for land from a Berber king: the area of one ox-hide only. He agrees. She cuts the hide in narrow strips, lays them end to end. A perimeter of skin for her new city Qart-hadasht.


I wear the sea –
the royal color taken from humble creatures.
We are ordained with salt:
if not for our Blue Mother, what princes would we be?
Land-bound, without our Cedar hulls.

A daughter born with salt on her tongue,
if not the blade of sons in hand –
(though blade and hand will meet before I’ve gone)

       What of exile then –
it is but a movement forward and away.


I venture out –
beyond the ports I know, leave the body
of my husband-priest behind,
call down the fire god he served: He who burns
and rises every year – who fills our sails.
For Him, we keep the temple flames alight,
we children of salt.

I draw the borders of our second Tyre
with strips of hide – a queen lays claim and builds.
The people here in this new place give me a name:
       One who wanders – Dido.


One ship-wrecked refugee –
       a Trojan vestige.
He’ll start another race across the currents.
But not yet. Not yet. And I don’t know this when I fall:
       in a cave, one version says –
or was it some pastoral place, with cupids nodding
in the grove?

First, a hunt. On this they do agree –
and that a boar was also felled that day.


But take another –
my outcast will obey his fate’s directive:
the waves and weighing of the anchor over a queen.
       Then leave, I say
I don’t want your second gaze.

Before the blade, and pyre smoke (it will rise
       and billow like your sails) –
an offering of my amends.
Dido’s wanderings are ended here. Ashes to salt –
my ashes to salt, if not to restoration.

  On stage two pits of fire
beside the queen of Carthage.
The rest is darkness.

Descendants of the Garden

the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
where the birds make their nests          

     I. Morning

After months of confinement
          the drive to Ain Zhalta feels subversive.
                    Like a bid for freedom, we enter a valley
of shrub and rock –

hills of olive tree terraces,
          blankets of stone pine above. Swathes
                    unbuilt, unchanged for thousands of years –
backdrop of prophets.

Looking out the car window
          a figure appears to me unbidden, walking
                    the land – undyed tunic, sheep’s wool mantle.
What counsel for us?

Protests. Currency failing.
          Government collapse. Our baker friend
                    worries about dwindling flour reserves.
In backyards, on balconies,

seeds are planted. I think
          of my mother’s World War II stories:
                    of rationing and food foraging – how
as a girl, she helped tend

communal kitchen gardens.
          And if I kept a garden of another sort –
                    planting words in earth instead of seeds,
would they bear fruit?

     II. Midday

We walk on territory of the Druze, pass the apple orchards in bloom.
     The sky in spring! – cobalt, or cerulean perhaps.
     A color to wake you, to thank.

A shepherd with a troop of long-haired goats navigates a rocky crest.
     And on swards stretching from the path, families
     sit on blankets, folding chairs.

The women wear dark robes and pale head-cloths, the men black
     with white caps – believers all in the migrating
     soul, the chain of transformation.

When we reach the cherry field, sun hangs halfway between dawn
     and dusk. Wildflowers at their feet, the trees
     stand in pink-blossomed rows –

in the distance, low mountains open out under the blue and clouds
     lay down their own transitory echoes
     of shadow on the olive scrub.

     III. Afternoon

We’ve brought food on our backs, look around for a place
     to sit – somewhere
under the branches of a cedar tree. We set up, one family
     per mat – share
sandwiches and bitter square of dark chocolate. Make sure
     no lips touch
water bottle rims. Our shelter’s limbs are history’s offspring:
     timber of ships
and temples. Resin for making pharaohs immortal. Planted,
     the old song says
by the Abrahamic gardener himself. And if we let the wood
     and resin be,
what then? Just looked at cedar saplings round the mother
     tree – bright
shoots amid the brush and rock, each smaller than my hand.
     Good scions
of the past nourished by the matriarch. If we let kindness
     rule instead.

Of Ma’Zaher and Kölnisch Wasser

Early May, and I linger at each orange tree in bloom.
The fragrance keeps me there –
          honeyed, yes, and pure

with tang and brightness and something else –

the familiar scent of our local orange-blossom water
white coffee and deserts
          and soap –

or the California navel oranges of my birth-state.

Maybe it’s that glass flacon I’m thinking of –
turquoise label, black digits
          of calligraphic

4 and 7 and 11. The gentle ministrations of neroli

and petitgrain to foreheads when we were sick –
a balm of benediction from
          our father’s hands.

Porphura, the Cost of Adornment

The island poetess sings of an ancient color – a sliver of ribbon
entwined in twists or braids. Earlier still, the tint is consecrated

in the veil of the Desert Tabernacle. Embroidered with celestial
guardians, it keeps the inner sanctum hidden. A color for kings,

senators and priests. Phoenician dyers wear it on their hands –
stains that smell of fish and death. But before all that, a story

of snail and muzzle. The god of Tyre takes a nymph to the sea –
a shoreline-walk with his dog in tow. Maybe it is evening, and

as divine feet leave transient prints on the strand, the pet sniffs
and searches, finds a Murex gastropod. Once crushed, it turns

its’ jaws a color the nymph admires. A cloth made from the tint
is her wish. So, the god sets about gathering the sea creatures.

A gland releases mucus-dye in defense – for sedating predators
and keeping eggs safe. 10,000 snails decayed will embellish one

garment hem at most. Dearer in weight than gold, the color won’t
fade or weather, with time and sunlight will grow always brighter.

Defiant in exposure. A single stripe for the lucky few, tapestry
for a temple, robe for a sovereign, and a ribbon maybe for a girl.

Bodies of Water: Littoral States

The oil rig has moved farther north
to try its luck while a late spring storm pushed
          aside the rust-polluted haze

of last week’s canicule. Today, sky
and sea are crystalline, planes of Mediterranean
          turquoise and indigo make

where you’re going look easy. Never
have I lived this close to water – I feel the tug
          of its primal mass, the briny

body. Days attune to changing colors,
changing moods: lead grey, unmoving; dark
          teal whipped into white caps;

cobalt wavelets under cumulus banks.
Perhaps the moods are also mine. Like salt
          unseen, atom-chains swim

in blood’s channels: message bearers
that make the body’s seasons; weather patterns
          I surrender to as years dissolve

into wave and tide. And the old ships,
where are they now? Vessels carved from cedar,
          bridging the distance between

summit and brine. Round-hulled rulers
of the sea passage, their sailors prayed to gods
          of wind and water. The skies

and currents, how different were they then?
Now the cargo ships float like plastic pieces on
          a game we play, but isn’t ours.

After months of confinement
          the drive to Ain Zhalta feels subversive.
                    Like a bid for freedom, we enter a valley
of shrub and rock –

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Poetry in this post: © Laura J. Braverman
Published with the permission of Laura J. Braverman