Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

Ghazal: Hands


Do you pine for photograph-worthy limbs, slender hands?
I asked about the soul & mom said God has tender hands.

I worried I’d need a ladder to climb up to heaven.
Or a strong grip. Or an ancestor to send her hands.

I’ve watched them shatter window glass. I’ve watched
them knead flour, water, grief. Render, hands.

Their earthly veneer tells time & the weather. Show us
how love. How green. How remorse. O calendar hands.

What medicine for longing? Salt water lifting
the breathing body. Sun, skin. Scent of lavender. Hands.

The child lets go, charges toward the sea alone. Come
dark, she drifts to her mother’s touch, bends her hands.

The mother recites into the child’s palm: O bird how
to eat you? Tickle. O apple tree leaves. Remember hands.

If you wave goodbye. If you wave come back. If you twirl
enough, will you learn to welcome surrender, hands?



Dear white critic,       ،رفيقي في الرحيل


If I told you I do not choose to write
about war & the children, would you believe me?


—مللتُ القرع على أبواب الامبراطوريات
I’m tired of knocking on the doors of empires.


If I told you these words are
not in English, would you believe me?


لم أدرك أني كنت أقرع حتى
.تكسرت عظام أصابعي
مللت، فعدت
وأكملت العبور


Though & because it confuses the tongue,
let me repeat this: the flowers are ours the flowers
are ours the flowers are ours.


تأكّدت أنّ القلب عضلة
—واللغة عضلة
لم كلّ هذا الاندهاش أمام مرونتنا إذاً؟
ولم الركود؟


Yes the earth turns & there is time between us,
but my universe is neither corner
nor as dark as you’ve called it. Do you believe me?


.الزيتون قليلٌ هذه السنة
كلّما أفتح المرطبان
:أتذكر مدرستي الصغيرة وراء الشجر


One of the boys, I
climbed over the school wall & jumped
into the olive grove.


.أهديت حبيبي الأول حبةً خضراء من هناك
I gifted my first love a green pit.


ألا تضجرك الاستعارات عن السلام
I’m tired of metaphors about peace.


I prefer dark chocolate in the morning,
& a good window.


والشجرةالمقدسة في الكتاب الأبديّ؟
!ما أجمل الشتاء والباصات والحب اليافع
جلست قرب صمتي هذا الصباح


Today I got a massage & painted
white petals on two red nails.
Do you believe me?


فلقت أرغفة الخبز وأعدتها إلى الكيس
قتلت نملةً صغيرةً في المطبخ
.وكلّمت الله


I don’t know if I envy God his existence
outside of time, or if he envies my angst
inside the body.
لا أدري إن كنت أحسده على وجوده
خارج الزمن، أو أنه يحسدني على اضطرابي
.داخل الجسد


If I told you I’m not that other
Arab poet you’ve read, would you believe me?
Do I thank you for your interest?


كثيراً ما تصطفي ذاكرتي
أرجوحةً صدئةً
على شرفةٍ قديمةٍ
في الطابق السادس
أو صوت حليم
في غرفة الجلوس الحمراء


Do my names tire you? Good.
My cities are cities & my singers are singers.
Go google.


ٍومع أنّي أخاف الموت بعد كلّ أغنية


This is the first & last poem I speak to you.


 .لا يداهمني الوقت ولا يغريني التفسير


Yes I believe in bridges.
If reading maps didn’t bore me,
I would have learnt it.


ربّما أتعلّم يوماً الرسم على الحجر
أو قيادة زورقٍ صغيرٍ، أو الوقوف على يديّ
.أو تنبّؤ السعادة


Sometimes I read the horoscopes
because I love my horns.


ربّما آخذ قيلولةً تحت شمس المدينة.

Goodbye now.
سأودّعك الآن


I banish I banish you from these lines.


قبل أن يصل أصدقائي
.ونرفع نخب هذا المساء

Zeina Hashem Beck is the author of Louder than Hearts (Bauhan Publishing, 2017), which won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. Her poetry has received Poetry Magazine‘s 2017 Frederick Bock Prize, has been featured on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Poetry Daily and Inpress Books’ Poem of the Week, and has appeared widely in Ploughshares, Poetry, the Rialto, Poetry London, World Literature Today, River Styx, Boulevard, Ambit, and Poetry Northwest, among others. She is Lebanese and currently lives in Dubai.


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