English-language poem by authors of Arab heritage (adult), judged by poet Hala Alyan
Nothing lost stays gone forever. Like a storm cloud
wavering over Mt. Ebal, pinned to the sky as a dove
in the watchtower’s eye. I ate an eskadania & I
became soft-plumed & dented as a hill’s hide,
daughter to nothing but milk & music. This is no God,
not in my sand-cradle, not in my land if the land
stays stolen. Say missing. Say mystic. Say miracle-
maker or mother, cloud dust or even better—oil
& za’atar. How names can change a thing. I ate a loquat
while angels dipped their heads & listened, hummed
along. No lyrics to this too-big something, raisined
with the breaking of rain. Not broken, no—& I take
back what I said before. Here sits holiness of sorts,
here sits coral, blood & cherry, here scatters the stars
like my uncle scatters saplings. I saw a storm arrive
in Kansas and nature stalled to listen, fireflies dizzy
with song. I saw dead flies flecked in cherry juice
in Jerusalem & it folded me reverent & shattered.
My uncle handing me a map with cities & names lost
to red signs & treaties. What you are changes a thing.
Alright, so the map is illegal. Alright, so it’s hidden
& gone. I carry that vision with me like a passport,
like a stolen diamond, like my little sister’s glove.
On "Chanson Mystique", judge Hala Alyan said :
“I found 'Chanson Mystique' to be a gorgeously crafted piece, breathlessly paced and evoking the chaotic beauty of Suha Shoman’s painting. The poet does a remarkable job of dialoguing with the art, evoking Midwestern thunderstorms and 'cherry juice/in Jerusalem.' In the end, this is–above all else–a praise poem, as the speaker entreaties us to remember, 'Here sits holiness of sorts,/here sits coral, blood & cherry, here scatters the stars/like my uncle scatters saplings.'”
The Barjeel Poetry Prize celebrates poetry, in Arabic and English, that opens a worldwide conversation with 20 selected Arab artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation. This is one of the 12 poems that won first and second place in the inaugural Barjeel Poetry Prize 2020, judged by distinguished poets. Click here for more information about the Prize at Barjeel Art Foundation's website.
Emily Khilfeh (she/her) is a Palestinian-American writer from Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and a former fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets. Her poetry appears in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Pinwheel Journal, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and the 2018 and 2019 Ghassan Kanafani Anthology.