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


Sometimes, it seems the only thing in the world that is without dark thoughts


by Mary Oliver

I do not know what gorgeous thing

The bluebird keeps saying,

His voice easing out of his throat,

beak, body into the pink air

of the early morning.  I like it

whatever it is.  Sometimes,

it seems the only thing in the world 

that is without dark thoughts.

Sometimes it seems the only thing

in the world that is without

questions that can’t and probably

never will be answered, the

only thing that is entirely content

with the pink, then clear white

morning and, gratefully, says so.

from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

love is most astonishing when it persists after learning where we come from

Art by Kristina Closs

My partner wants me to write them a poem about Sheryl Crow

By Kayleb Rae Candrilli

but all I want to do is marry them on a beach

that refuses to take itself too seriously.

So much of our lives has been serious.

Over time, I’ve learned that love is most astonishing

when it persists after learning where we come from.

When I bring my partner to my childhood home

it is all bullets and needles and trash bags held

at arm’s length. It is my estranged father’s damp

bed of cardboard and cigar boxes filled

with gauze and tarnished spoons. It is hard

to clean a home, but it is harder to clean

the memory of it. When I was young, my

father would light lavender candles and shoot

up. Now, my partner and I light a fire that will

burn all traces of the family that lived here.

Black plastic smoke curdles up, and loose bullets

discharge in the flames. My partner holds

my hand as gunfire rings through

the birch trees. Though this is almost

beautiful, it is not. And while I’m being honest,

my partner and I spend most of our time

on Earth feeding one another citrus fruits

and enough strength to go on. Every morning

I pack them half a grapefruit and some sugar.

And they tell me it’s just sweet enough.

from Water I Won’t Touch