​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

Third Letter


My friends here say it shouldn’t be
difficult to choose a date for a wedding.

They believe in planning
months, sometimes years

in advance. Once they’ve found
a dress and a room for dancing,

a florist and a cake shop,
a day trimmed with white lace awaits.

I don’t know what it’s like 
to have a platonic relationship with a calendar.

In September the light is supple
and brides want a golden crown of evening

but all I can think of is the red clay of Shatila
exhaling the bodies of the camp. The woman

who sounded like you,
her long fingers a silk fan gathered at her mouth

ana elgharibeh el maa ili hadaa

her gaze wandering down the road
where the truck carried the men away.

When can we celebrate?

May is another well-lit month. Wisteria clusters 
on newly-green branches and in the cool of night

we walk through clouds 
of its perfume, but all I can think of 

are the last boats of Haifa spilling
their sorrowing cargo, and that woman 

who looked like you
running through fires,

reaching for the stones 
of her house, carrying a phantom 

while her child at home 
slept in the cradle of absence.

How do we plan for tomorrow?

I’m thinking about the nominative case,
Miss Sahar, how the word munsoob

cannot simply be the state of Kaan.
How nasb tizkaari is a memorial

and in my imagination always 
a crumbling limestone, somber 

weight, like all our nouns,
and how the word 

on the street and stripped 
of its classical elegance,

broken down into a verb again,
just means you’ve been played.

D E A R   M I S S   S A H A R


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her essays have been published in KROnline, the Seattle Times, and Al-Ahram Weekly. Her poems have been or will soon be published in journals including Barrow Street, Blackbird, Crab Creek Review, Diode, Drunken Boat, Indianola Review, Ithaca Lit, Massachusetts Review, and the Rumpus. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, was the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize winner, and her first full-length book of poems, Water & Salt, will be published by Red Hen Press in April, 2017. 

B Y   L E N A   K H A L A F   T U F F A H A