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.

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This isn’t a place to call home

illustration of a spider web between bicycle handlebars with sunflowers fading in the background
Art by Kristina Closs

“Mimesis”

My daughter
                        wouldn’t hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn’t a place to call home
And you’d get to go biking

She said that’s how others
Become refugees isn’t it?

by Fady Joudah (1971-) from Alight