•  “The Interviewer Wants to Know About Fashion”: A Poem by Hala Alyan

     “Isn’t it a miracle that they come back?”


     “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
    —Ayelet Shaked

     Think of all the calla lilies.
    Think of all the words that rhyme with calla.
    Isn’t it a miracle that they come back?
    The flowers. The dead. I watch a woman
    bury her child. How? I lost a fetus
    and couldn’t eat breakfast for a week.
    I watch a woman and the watching is a crime,
    so I return my eyes. The sea foams like a dog.
    What’s five thousand miles between friends?
    If you listen close enough,
    you can hear the earth crack like a neck.
    Be lucky. Try to make it to the morning.
    Try to find your heart in the newsprint.
    Please. I’d rather be alive than holy.
    I don’t have time to write about the soul.
    There are bodies to count.
    The news anchor says oopsie.
    The Prime Minister says thanks.
    There’s a man wearing his wedding tuxedo to sleep in case
    I meet God and there’s a brick of light before each bombing.
    I dream I am a snake after all.
    I dream I do Jerusalem all over again. This time,
    I don’t shake my hair down when the soldier tells me to.
    I don’t thank them for my passport.
    Later my grandfather said they couldn’t have kept it.
    You know that, don’t you?
    I don’t know what they couldn’t do.
    I only know that enormous light.
    Only that roar of nothing,
    as certain and incorrect as a sermon.

    Hala Alyan
    Hala Alyan
    Hala Alyan is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award, and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize. Her latest novel, The Arsonists’ City, was a finalist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize. She is also the author of four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by The New Yorker, The Academy of American Poets, Lit Hub, The New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn, where she works as a clinical psychologist and professor at New York University.

    More Story
    John Lee Clark on Why Capitalization Matters to the DeafBlind Community It is six degrees below zero here in Hopkins, Minnesota. Ten inches of snow are on the ground. My cheeks are burning. This...
  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.