Goodbye

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

Always knew it would come back
to haunt me. It was war, time was short,
 
the truck was leaving, and with it my hope
of safe passage from that besieged city.
 
She was in another place, phone lines
down, no time to search her out.
 
I had to flee. And so I did. I knew
the spool of time would never
 
rewind, that there would be no
going back; that with that leaving,
 
I would lose my chance to find her
before the bombs exploded–
 
her home destroyed, her brother burned,
her eyes torn to darkness.
 
Where is she now? Would she
remember me if I found her?
 
And if I kissed her cheeks three times,
Lebanese style, and called her habibti,
 
hayati, would she speak to me,
smile? Or would she turn away,
 
her life so changed, her griefs so far from mine
that there would be  no point in saying, even, goodbye?

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Knowing How to Die

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

I’ve owned it forever, a dark seed,
one of those possessions you know
you’ll need one day, but till then
 
shove to the back of your mind,
ignore.  It permeated my being
from the moment I pushed down the birth canal
 
into life-light, and before, from that first eruption
of synchronicity, cells multiplying madly
deep in my mother’s womb-nest
 
where I swam, nine months, practicing for life.
Once born, there was so much to do.
I learned how to breathe, how to suckle—
 
my mothers’ chest a savannah, her nipple
an oasis – and from there the whole world
waited.  Oh, the busyness of life!
 
But that death-knowledge
slumbers, imprinted in my bones
like a birthright:

original, indelible,
the one thing in life
I won’t have to earn.

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Primal Touch

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My newborn’s skin was so satiny to the touch
I worried my hangnails would catch and rip her.
I bent my face to her downy head, touching my lips
to the soft curve of her skull, bones soft
and unmolded, hair wispy and damp,  the odor of birth
still emanating from her as if from a new-baked loaf,
musty and sweet. I could have spent forever
with my lips pressed to her infant flesh, but hunger
had other agendas. Her wail pierced my body,
sent electric cramps through my still-open womb,
milk sparking through my nipple, as her toothless gums
clamped down and pulled, tugging milk fiercely
from my deepest core, flooding us both with the essence
of life. It’s the primal touch we don’t remember
that shapes us.  The first time my daughter opens herself
to another’s caress, will her body recall that first flooding of love,
light touch of lips and hands,  life-force expanding in a milky rush
as I drew her body to my body and gave suck?

 

 

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Finding Your Group

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My daughter, proud spiny-pet owner
votes for a prickle of hedgehogs.
My husband, the spear-gun fisherman,
stands firm for a shiver of sharks.
My sister, cat lover, chimes in for
a chine of polecats, while my mother-in-law,
an inveterate chef, dithers between  a bouquet
of pheasants and a wrack of rabbits.
Me, I’ll settle for a storytelling of ravens –
like the ones over there, perched on the carob tree branch
that leans over the cliff (wrinkled sea
far below), tossing tales between them
like popcorn, weaving strands of story
into their nests–bright bits of ribbon and floss
to amuse the chicks. I watch them
 preen their raven-black feathers and strut:
tellers of tall tales, lovers of small
shiny objects, birds of a feather together.
I love how they embellish the plot, enjoy the side-bars,
and, when they reach the end,  caw raucously,
laughing at their own bad jokes.

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.