I pray that when I am gone, my people speak as sweetly of me as I do of them

Dear readers, friends,

We find ourselves at the end of National Poetry Month once again. Thank you for joining me on this verse-filled journey; I hope you found some words and images that spoke to you along the way.

Special thanks to Kristina Closs, who brought a whole other layer to the poems with her illustrations–and always helped me see the poems in new ways. If you enjoyed her work, please visit her website, where you can purchase prints (including the ones inspired by this month’s poetry!)–or contact her for custom commissions, which she will gladly work on with you.

The final poem I’d like to share with you this April, which is not only National Poetry Month but also Arab American Heritage Month, is by the Palestinian American poet Tariq Luthun. This is a poem I feel in my bones–the home Kristina drew into the illustration is actually a rendering of what was once my great grandparent’s home in Tulkarm, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. Here’s to a day when everyone has a home for the tea to settle, a haven for the mint to steep.

an illustration of a house in Palestine surrounded by mint leaves with landscape in the back
Art by Kristina Closs


Today, my mouth fell
wide when I saw the light
slip into the hills, and those boys

I grew up with did not
come back. Or, so I hear. Mama
would often ask me to gather

the mint leaves from behind our home,
and so I would leave for this
nectar – without it, there is nothing sweet

to speak of. I pray that
when I am gone, my people speak
as sweetly of me as I do of them.

I see us, often, steeped
in the land and hope that
a shore remains

a shore – not a place to become
yesterday. The girls have joined the boys
now – all of them

tucked just beyond
the earth. But I know they wouldn’t run
from their mothers – not without a fight,

a chase, a hunt, a honey, a home
for the tea to settle; a haven
for us to return to.

from How the Water Holds Me


What is home but a book we write, then read again & again

illustration of the words of the poem creating a black and white landscape of trees, house, two deer
Art by Kristina Closs

Written Deer

by Maggie Smith

Why does this written doe bound
through these written woods?
                            —Wisława Szymborska

My handwriting is all over these woods.
No, my handwriting is these woods,

each tree a half-print, half-cursive scrawl,
each loop a limb. My house is somewhere
here, & I have scribbled myself inside it.

What is home but a book we write, then
read again & again, each time dog-earing

different pages. In the morning I wake
in time to pencil the sun high. How
fragile it is, the world—I almost wrote

the word but caught myself. Either one
could be erased. In these written woods,

branches smudge around me whenever
I take a deep breath. Still, written fawns
lie in the written sunlight that dapples

their backs. What is home but a passage
I’m writing & underlining every time I read it.

from Goldenrod

what is happiness?

illustration of a front loading washing machine with a colorful rainbow and a house sketched in the middle where the clothes would be
Art by Kristina Closs


For you, what is happiness?

Black tiles and slant
of ribbed clouds.

A child’s rainbow
with a house under it.

Clothes in the washer
clapping all night.

by Fanny Howe (1940-)