A balcony

Four chairs

My mother, brother, and I sat

With the Tante Fathiyye of my childhood

At a scraped plastic table

Its once whiteness smudged.


Her back turned to the view of the sea

Wearing her wrinkles like its waves

She nibbled at her mankoushe

Stirred gunpowder into her tea

As she

Told us how

Kiryat Shmona was founded over skeletons

in her hometown, how

Her family evacuated

Fled a war and snuggled in the arms of another


A series of houses




With scraps of life between escapes


How her eight-year-old nephew drowned

His mother lost her mind

And  two of her cousins

Threw their lives on a border

And snuck

Back into Palestine

In an ambulance


How her brother's accidental nap

On the roof alone

Was enough

To declare him missing,


For flowers remind them more of graves

Than of gardens

For they have residence permits in hospitals  not countries

For there's an hourglass

At their bedside


Running infinitely

Keeping vigil

Keeping count

Of family members

With unknown fates

Of stories

Told with halved sentences

And a slur.


She tamed her frizz

With a palm of a hand

Whose fingerprints had

Been rubbed out

Whose flesh had morphed

Into sandpaper

After forty years

Of cleaning house

Building lives

For parents


Nieces,  nephews, cousins,

But none

To call her own.


She said it all with humor

Smiles, laughs

Gums blackened by puffs

Of Three Stars cigarettes

Smoke that brought her back

to the ashes of home.


And I marveled

At the way she said it

The peace booming in her face

Her l’hamdillas uttered with intact faith

While my modest turmoils

Had long sewn my lips shut

While words are broken glass

In my mouth.

I could only ask her



      To hell with talks of things happening for a reason

                 Talks of God's will for this season


   Why has the universe been

  Stuffing our mouths with almosts from the start?

   Why are we allowed

To fall in love with the temporary

    To clutch what death can touch


I get that life cannot be

        A walk in the park

        A cup of tea

          But does it really have to spite?


       How could you speak?

In the end,


Is not to be eliminated

But navigated

Words mend.

Hearing's at the root of healing

And hearts are thusly patched.


The mouth un-sewn

The dam crumbled

The words spilt


And now


I allow

Myself to write

Write my floods, my wars

My own blazing, barbed frontiers

That ink might sear,

might nurse the sears.


Lina Hassoun

Lina Hassoun is fascinated by words and si-lences. In a parallel universe, she speaks 17 lan-guages, has 21 degrees, and masters all the trades of Jack. In this one, she is a fourth year Civil and Environmental Engineering student at the American University of Beirut. She has soft spots for elephants, cinnamon, and lavender. Her favorite writing medium is pencil on table-tops.

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