diode v9n1




In my mind a song is forming, sister,
sleep and I will write it for you.

In my heart a song is storming, sister,
sleep and it will shelter you.

Like a dream-blossoming trellis
my song summons honeybees

to its moist lips, calls
them to its qaaf-thick nectar.

In my mind, a song is forming, sister,
strands of your laughter

trilling through cigarette smoke.
In my heart a song, storming, sister,

bloodstain of geraniums in clay pots,
bone-white jasmine grasping old walls.

In my mind a song is forming, sister,
on battered streets, pallor of concrete

stripped, surrendering.
In my heart a storming, sister,

dysphagia of what we keep surviving
what my mother calls adjudicated fate.

In my mind a longing, sister,
for a murmuration of vowels

qaraar of divine name
released from the maul of men’s mouths.

A song returned to its root, sister,
time ordered

to the rhythm
of our hearts before the storm.

Qaaf – 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet, voiceless uvular plosive, lodged in the back of the throat.
Qaraar – decision, stable center of the spirit. Tonal center in Arabic classical music.



A Palestinian Cento after Neruda’s “The Heights of Macchu Picchu”

Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps.
Let dead lips congregate
and tell me everything
chain by chain
and link by link.

Stone within stone, and man, where was he?
Time within time, and man, where was he?
Let time exhaust all measure,
today the vacant air no longer mourns.
Your rasping voice will not come back.
You no longer exist: spider fingers, frail
threads, tangled cloth—everything you are
dropped away.

Scarred moon, menacing stone.
Night hoisted upon fingers and roots.

Love, love, do not come near the border,
a heritage of tears, enshrined and buried here.
Out of the depths spin this long night to me,
show me your blood and your furrow,
speak through my speech, and through my blood
and let me cry: hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.  


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American poet of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her poems have been translated into Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish, and have been read at anti-war events in Gaza, London, Tokyo, and Toronto, and across the United States. Her first book of poems, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in Spring 2017. Her poems have been published, or are forthcoming, in journals including Blackbird, Borderlands Texas Review, Boiler, Compose, Lunch Ticket, James Franco Review, Sukoon, The Lake for Poetry, and The Ofi Press Mexico. Two of her poems have been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize.  She is an MFA candidate in poetry at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.