Today marks my 14th year of posting a daily poem during April in honor of National Poetry Month, and I’m very lucky that the wonderfully talented Kristina Closs will be collaborating with me again to illustrate the poems, a new tradition that now feels vital to this month’s tradition.
My first choice this month is by the Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha from his debut collection, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear. I could fill this introduction with a litany of all the things that have caused me and so many of us intense heartache in this year alone, but I am choosing to begin this April with a small living reminder of hope, from Mosab’s hometown of Gaza to wherever you find yourself reading this today. Here’s to the roses among the ruins, and to the poems that help us see both.
A Rose Shoulders Up
Don’t ever be surprised to see a rose shoulder up among the ruins of the house: This is how we survived.
Although I grew up in a home that celebrates mothers daily, I want to take this national day of reflection on motherhood to share both a scene from life with my mother, and one of her favorite poems. This weekend I published an essay in Serious Eats about how my mother’s baking ritual taught me how to love what we create–and when to let go. Amidst all the heartbreaking realities of today’s world, I remain ever grateful for the power of food, and for those who nourish us. I hope you enjoy this bit of prose that snuck into my poetry blog, and some insight into the person posting if you are one of the lovely readers I don’t know!
As for the poem, here are the incredible words of one of the most beloved voices of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008). He wrote this poem while in prison for his political activism, poetry, and travels without a permit.
I long for my mother’s bread My mother’s coffee Her touch Childhood memories grow up in me Day after day I must be worth my life At the hour of my death Worth the tears of my mother.
And if I come back one day Take me as a veil to your eyelashes Cover my bones with the grass Blessed by your footsteps Bind us together With a lock of your hair With a thread that trails from the back of your dress I might become immortal Become a God If I touch the depths of your heart.
If I come back Use me as wood to feed your fire As the clothesline on the roof of your house Without your blessing I am too weak to stand.
I am old Give me back the star maps of childhood So that I Along with the swallows Can chart the path Back to your waiting nest.