I long for my mother’s bread

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!

a photograph of my mother making fatayer, her hands spreading out the dough on the kitchen counter. rows of dough on the counter beside her along with olive oil and spinach in a bowl
My mother making fatayer. Image Credit Natalie Jabbar

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.

My Mother

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.

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There is nothing more terrible than waiting for the terrible.

illustration of a dark hillside dotted with bright orange flowers. Silhouette of a child in the distance.
Art by Kristina Closs

Half-Life in Exile

by Hala Alyan

I’m forever living between Aprils.
The air here smells of jacarandas and lime;
it’s sunset before I know it. I’m supposed
to rest, but that’s where the children live.
In the hot mist of sleep. Dream after dream.
Instead, I obsess. I draw stars on receipts.
Everybody loves the poem.
It’s embroidered on a pillow in Milwaukee.
It’s done nothing for Palestine.
There are plants out West that emerge only after fires.
They listen for smoke. I wrote the poem
after weeks of despair, hauling myself
like a rock. Everyone loves the poem.
The plants are called fire-followers,
but sometimes it’s after the rains. At night,
I am a zombie feeding on the comments.
Is it compulsive to watch videos?
Is it compulsive to memorize names?
Rafif and Ammar and Mahmoud.
Poppies and snapdragons and calandrinias:
I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you under the missiles.
A plant waits for fire to grow.
A child waits for a siren. It must be a child.
Never a man. Never a man without a child.
There is nothing more terrible
than waiting for the terrible. I promise.
Was the grief worth the poem? No,
but you don’t interrogate a weed
for what it does with wreckage.
For what it’s done to get here.

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Check out more of Hala Alyan’s gorgeous, necessary work, including her two novels Salt Houses and The Arsonists City and poetry collections The Twenty-Ninth Year and Hijra.

we were Palestinian in every timeline

Illustration of the silhouettes of adult bodies with a child suspended in the middle in a globe. On the sides, images of bodies within bodies. The background is a kufiyah pattern
Art by Kristina Closs

from UNIVERSAL THEORY IN WHICH EVERY FAILED GESTURE 
TOWARDS LOVE IS A SOULMATE FROM AN ALTERNATE TIMELINE

by George Abraham

Let’s say god is every failed history of speculation – say history 
is the space between two lovers endlessly out of reach –  

we feigned divinity & it got us this far – this is how I know 
we were Palestinian in every timeline – ancestored from earth 

to earth, our infinite loops of breath are how the universe loves itself 
back, perpetual – proof that every love language boils down 

to recursion – the only country I can surely Return to is a people
who sent the timelines spiraling with their stubborn & earth

-laced fists. None of this is speculative – there are people inside 
the people we were born into & all of them survived 

so many unspeakables. In this life, we will cry over foaming
qahwa as you tell me only one of us can Return to the country

we call home, before distancing ourselves a plane ride we’ll never 
take. You tell me all will be well. Say, we know the shattering of space

-time’s topology as inheritance; in this way, we’re chasing 
each other     though neither of us are chasing     back – 

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for more of George’s poems, check out Birthright