Everything beautiful lay both forwards and backwards.

an illustration of purple coneflowers in a circle of full bloom to a dead flower, with a bee in the center and a butterfly stretched across the black background
Art by Kristina Closs

Everything Lies in All Directions

by Hua Xi

Death is the same in both directions.
It wants to go somewhere. It wants to come back.
Once I came back through a grass. Purple coneflowers
floated there, attracting bees. The whole field was humming.
Once I came back through the dead. This roughly translates
to something my mother lived through in Chinese.
My mother said, “I don’t read. It’s too tiring.”
It’s true–people who wrote things
lied to her. Once I came back through a poem.
Time refused to pass there, and loneliness
drifted down past my window like snow.
Alone, I did not move. Worlds changed around me.
Everything beautiful lay both forwards and backwards.
Everything translated into butterflies, which billowed
into a breath of tall summer. They blew out of the past
and into the future. Was it yours or was it mine?
Then, I was a child. Once, my mother was.
This is how you learn that nothing ends
unless it has to.


to you the past is us the past the past is everything

a composite image of a black and white photo of four young people walking with flowers illustrated below and red abstract lines in the right corner
Art by Kristina Closs; Photo slice is from a picture of my mom and three of her siblings walking down the street in Damascus in the 1950s.


by Ahmad Almallah

we sat together you and I mother next to son
the armchairs worn against the dullness of white walls
you read aloud the same sentence over and over

I place your hand in mine do I let go I stand
there was between us something everything
to you the past is us the past the past is everything

and there I look the beige cupboard full of pictures
it’s still closed up your youth I know almost nothing
I am your son the youngest one the son of your aging

I open up the beige the black and white pictures
your arms revealed and in the sun revealing
the weak and slender hand is aimless on the table

I place a photo in your palm your daughter and your sons
I am a child the funny face I make you point to him
you ask if he belongs to me I say he is your son

you do not know you look at me in wonder
the past the past is everything the present
your mind the nerves the stems of blood bursting

from Bitter English

this past was waiting for me when I came

“i am accused of tending to the past”

by Lucille Clifton ( 1936-2010)

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.