Miss Sahar Listens to Fairuz in the Afternoon


Your Name

By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

I gathered the letters of your name
the day they came for you.
It is not our custom to cry
when what is needed is fortitude.

The day they came for you
I strung my tears like pearls on silk thread
when what is needed is fortitude.
I worried the letters of your name like prayer beads.

I strung my tears like pearls on silk thread
to withstand your absence, the weight of days.
I worried the letters of your name like prayer beads,
clasped them on my wrist like shackles

to withstand your absence, the weight of days.
You scattered the letters of my name and I
clasped them on my wrist like shackles,
embrace of cold silver, bracelet of light.

You scattered the letters of my name and I
etched the letters of yours into the olive,
embrace of cold silver, bracelet of light, I
slid them, like globes of sap beneath its bark,

etched the letters of your name,
silent knife-edge prayer, alphabet incantation, I
slid them like globes of sap beneath its bark
to nourish you with the pulse of our waiting.

Silent knife-edge prayer, alphabet incantation,
when rains course over the wounds of this story
to nourish you with the pulse of our waiting,
your name will burn in night’s lanterns.

When rains course over the wounds of this story
your name will shelter beneath olive leaves,
your name will burn in night’s lanterns
as our story joins the others at the border.

Your name will shelter beneath olive leaves.
It is not our custom to cry.
As our story joins the others at the border,
I gathered the letters of your name.


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.