Feature image by Mona Hatoum, Untitled (cut-out 11), 2009. Tissue paper. Photo by Joerg Lohse. Image via Alexander and Bonin.


They said burn the keys
but only our hair caught fire.

We walked to the borders
with photographs and letters:
This is where the dying began
their dying, this is where
they knifed the children.

The judges called us in
by our cities. Jericho. Latakia. Haditha.

We swore on a god we never met, to love
the lakes, the ice caps,
one frost after another,

but at night in our dreams
the library burnt,
the pears were still crisp in the pantry.

We waited for our flooded village
to be siphoned, the stone bridges rebuilt.
We ate the house keys with salt.

Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian-American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, and Colorado Review. She is the author of Atrium: Poems, which was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award, and Four Cities, recently released by Black Lawrence Press. Her latest collection, Hijra (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry) was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press.