Photograph of the inside of Ristretto Coffee Lab in Gaza. Picture taken by Emad El Byed.
Photo by Emad El Byed / Unsplash

 I used to meet him at the coffee shop,

the one in Remal, lovelier

than any of the ones we visited in London

I used to write

I used to feed the birds 

I used to write poems

on the roof of our house, 

he always asked that we feed them when he grew 

too frail to walk up there himself.

I used to write poems when I believed  

there were people to read them,

I used to buy seeds for the birds

in cities in America, loneliest

of any of the places where we sought refuge

I used to tend the roses my mother planted

I used to feed the garden every October,

turn over the fragrant earth,

tuck the tulip bulbs in six inches deep,

let the heart-shaped katsura leaves, first a pale yellow

I feel like a ghost

then apricot, then ocher, then 

finally a kind of mud-brown, decay

Maybe I’ve already died?

slowly above them in the rain.

I used to love a first rain

I used to find a poem 

I used to live here

in strands of speech, I used to believe

or did I? It’s long past time

I used to dream

to ask what is worth believing

in the silence of thousand-ton bombs.


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a Palestinian poet, essayist, and translator. She is the author of three books: Water & Salt, winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award; Kaan and Her Sisters (Trio House, 2023); and the forthcoming Something about Living (University of Akron, 2024), winner of the 2022 Akron Prize for Poetry. In 2022, Tuffaha was the cocurator of the translation series Poems from Palestine for The Baffler. She lives in Redmond, Washington, with her family.