Kaan Sings a Mawwal to the Smugglers


By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Call out to the night    Ya layl

We embroidered the first map of stars
traced the feathers of Altir
on its kohl-dark hills.

Call out to the night    Ya layl ya layl

Let its name surge in our charred throats
Let the balm of its breezes
glide over our song.

Call the night ours       Ya layli ya layli ya layl

Who braves the salt-crusted blades of its ocean
with bleeding limbs and barefoot children?

Who walks the trembling sands of its deserts
with broken astrolabes and scorpion silence?

Who surrenders their song to its tyrant wind
a thousand times for the promise

of bread
of rain
of a sunrise?

Call out           Ya layli ya layli ya layl

The night has no answers.
We are its words.


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha writes poetry, essays and literary translations. She has been published in journals including Kenyon Review OnlineDiode, 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.