Upon a Place in Time

There once was what was
             This is never sufficient

It was known by the people that there was what was
             This is implicit

There once was a place
           Where is yours    
           What do you claim as its borders    
           How do you translate the word
was and was not are the opening of a story

the past a jagged-edge birthmark
a blood-line testimonial
that held memory hostage     pried its fingernails loose     lashed its chest   

pasts piled up like stones

This is how monuments became rubble

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha writes poetry, essays and literary translations. She has been published in journals including Kenyon Review Online, Diode, and Sukoon. She is twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her first book of poems, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in April 2017.