No. 3

Fatima :: Dust Ghazal

Dima Srouji, Cartographic Imaginary, 2016.

I married him anyway: Salim with the long neck. Salim, sunset. I learned mildew, dust,

became wife to three countries. Who could’ve foretold this new dust?

In Kuwait, we’d wait moon to moon for the sandstorm to pass. Every day,

I’d watch by the window: the lank of him walking through dust.

My daughter dreamt of lions and the army came within a week.

Have you seen a city go dead as jade? Our houses grew dust.

I mean to say: for him I sold the blue of sea. For him I packed

my quick mouth, the trinket of my accent. Still — am I not due dust

from my father’s grave, diamonds, my old name? This is the hot jinx

of daughtering: we knew our mothers and our mothers knew dust.

I sent my superstitions west with the children — spit at the bad angel, righted

sneakers. At the American airport, I opened my mouth and out flew dust.

Salim, you’ve never seen such color: Prairies. Two-for-ones. Six news channels and not

a single coup. Televisions as warm as a mother: one stunned eye, all empty blue dust.

From The Moon That Turns You Back by Hala Alyan. Copyright © 2024 by Hala Alyan.

Published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Excerpted by permission.

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Guernica, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series, and her debut novel, Salt Houses, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her latest novel, The Arsonists’ City, was a finalist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize. Her forthcoming collection of poetry, The Moon That Turns You Back, will be published by Ecco.

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