Ode to the Damsel by Hala Alyan

Pink as a seashell. Mid-yawn,
breasts rising like soldiers.
In the shopping cart, duct tape
& eye cream. The car red as a
tongue. Your tongue, a car,
spanning the city. The door rings
& you don’t open it. There is Lisbon
on the other side. Three children &
a holy month. Spring & still the
lights twizzling the trees.
You were right to wait. What
is coming is already in the bed,
& you might need your mama’s
god after all. Orbit what you
orbit. Your eyes are bells &
whatever you see will sing out.
You’ll thank whatever names you.


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.