This is how we survived.

Dear readers, friends,

Today marks my 14th year of posting a daily poem during April in honor of National Poetry Month, and I’m very lucky that the wonderfully talented Kristina Closs will be collaborating with me again to illustrate the poems, a new tradition that now feels vital to this month’s tradition.

My first choice this month is by the Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha from his debut collection, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear. I could fill this introduction with a litany of all the things that have caused me and so many of us intense heartache in this year alone, but I am choosing to begin this April with a small living reminder of hope, from Mosab’s hometown of Gaza to wherever you find yourself reading this today. Here’s to the roses among the ruins, and to the poems that help us see both.

an illustration by Kristina Closs of sketchy ruins with a specifically rendered rose on top of the sketched chimney. White plumes coming out of the chimney
Art by Kristina Closs

A Rose Shoulders Up

Don’t ever be surprised
to see a rose shoulder up
among the ruins of the house:
This is how we survived.


As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others

I think of these words by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) all the time, and I cannot help but share them again with all of you today.


“Think of Others”

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you wage your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: If only I were a candle in the dark).

Translated by Mohammed Shaheen

from Almond Blossoms and Beyond

what planet in the widow’s hand?

Today I give you just one of the searing poems from The Silence that Remains by Palestinian poet, novelist, and journalist Ghassan Zaqtan (1954-), translated by Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah (1971-).


“That Life”

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see them there
tranquil on the hill of engagement

Dear Wednesday’s narcissus, what time is it
what death is it
what planet in the widow’s hand
five or three?

Her dress was blooming
              we were
neglected flowers on her dress

Dear women’s thresholds, how much is a lifetime
what time is a river
how many daggers in the blood
of the whirling storm
five or three?

We let the city play
and rolled our widespread shrouds shut

I’m going to see how they died
I’m going toward that wreckage
going to see their death
hills of the north
wind-rise of the south
I’m going to call them by their names