Light my face and light the flesh of my flesh

illustration of a sun shining over many tiny details that form the composite of a bird and a landscape, in yellow and red hues
Art by Kristina Closs

Devotional (after a Muslim Prayer)

by Philip Metres

Light my face and light the flesh of my flesh,
Light each my eyes and light inside my sight,
Light the light that makes me light in the bones,
And in my hands, light, and in my loins, light,

And light your light before and behind me,
Above and beneath me, light to my right
And light to left, light to my enemies
Who in the moral dark will use my light

Against me, light the dull swords of my ribs,
The thick fist within, light the blood-hot rooms
Pulsing there, light the gates when they swing wide
To the stranger, light more light on my tongue,

In the light, light more light, in the black, light,
and when it’s time to snuff this wick—light that light.

i say patron saint of the gap in my mother’s front teeth

From the dirt beneath a grandmother’s nails to a certain slant of light, Jess Rizkallah so gorgeously captures the tangible and intangible aspects of our lives that anchor and protect us.

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“when they ask who i pray to”

i say patron saint of the gap in my mother’s front teeth

i say patron saint of the long-last gap in my teeth, who took it back
but left me with a whistle. a reminder of the resemblance
i let myself forget.

i say patron saint of my grandfather’s forehead,
who whispers about the heart on fire
under formaldehyde & earth.

patron saint of my sister’s bitten nails that never catch dirt when she lays
flowers at the base of a stone that took five months to arrive because
no one else came around.

saint of the lemon tree his father put there
saint of the ripest tomatoes
saint of the shrapneled kitchen tile their baby feet slapped
saint of the blue peaks by the ocean where we began
saint of the way we say what again
and again as plea, as demand.

i know there are saints of light not written about.
saints of walking sticks falling against floors not holy.
the saint of the self as god when god has done enough
to be reshelved and left dusty

when they ask me, i say patron saint of teta’s hands.
small hands that beaded and embroidered
and kneaded and carried and learned the alphabet.
a for apple. b for box. c for candle.
d for dog. d for death. d for dirt
under the nails. a hard day’s work a        picture frame
and his cold wedding band.       this is how we compete
with the silence that wants to take us.

from the magic my body becomes

The air smelled of burning clementine groves.

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From Hijra, by the Palestinian American poet, author, and clinical psychologist Hala Alyan (1986-).

“Seham”

Sit and I’ll tell you of my father’s prayer rug,
dark as plums with yellow borders,

borders like the map we ate, grit tangled
between our teeth, the years swelling

like one hundred arrows. Here,
have some stew, taste June in the steam.

Did I tell you about the name we bore
like armor, the earth they spat up

with fishbone? After they planted copper
in our eyes, we went on planting suns over

the graves. The air smelled of
burning clementine groves. We fed

our daughters until they grew
redwoods and oak trees instead of hearts,

the fever we took from the land when
our ribs turned into compasses.