Nadia is awake again in the dream,
hair freshly dyed. There is a conversation
I started four years ago and never finished —
sometimes, I think of my wedding night,
how, after the guests left and I pulled the last
bobby pin from my hair, the dress collapsing
in the armchair like a protest, I cried into his arms
until I slept. This is the last time we were all
together, although of course there were other
last times—the last time Fatima made a joke
about America, the last time Fatima wore
perfume, the last time spring entered that house.
I am never paying attention. I cried because
Fatima was already half-gone, because Nadia
would later say I was the happiest bride she’d
ever seen, because I didn’t recognize
the photographs, because I left the wrong country,
but hasn’t everything already happened, somewhere?
Aren’t we all waiting like unrung bells, and
hadn’t Fatima already died that night,
and Nadia too, and the city, and the house, and
in that hotel bed, in that flesh that is their
flesh, in that bone that is their bone, their
every season, wasn’t I only remembering?
Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series. Her debut novel, Salt Houses, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, and was the winner of the Arab American Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her newest poetry collection, The Twenty-Ninth Year, was recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.