Zeina Azzam

The Physics and Chemistry of Things

 

 

The physics and chemistry 

of things elude me

 

the way water sensibly 

becomes a cloud

 

feathers propel an eagle skyward

 

white light penetrates glass

to emerge as a rainbow

on the other side

 

In fact 

sometimes I’d prefer not to know

why hydrogen and oxygen cling

to each other

 

or how yeast coaxes dough to rise

 

please tell me about the speed of light 

another day

 

now

let me admire unencumbered

the geometry of a daisy

 

allow me to be awed

by the flash of shooting stars

fanning across a moonless sky

 

Death in War

 

After the headlines,

the photographs of still bodies

in utter surrender

 

the stacking and burying

in unmarked graves

 

don’t turn away.

 

Say a prayer for each farmer,

teacher, bearded grandfather

on a cane,

 

mother whose scarf flies in the air,

father staring at the ground.

 

Think of the empty chairs

at the dinner table,

the shirt and socks missing

from the clothesline.

 

Remember each pair of hands

that opened and closed,

held a pencil,

clapped with joy…

 

and when 

the wheat and flowers they sowed

reach toward the sun

 

bring water

to these tenacious

flags of presence

 

on the land.

Orphaned

 

     For my brother

 

We used to be five

like the fingers on the Hand of Fatima

hanging at my front door

 

Suddenly winter paused,

stopped its march toward spring,

arteries shriveled, bones unclasped

 

Father’s lonely fig tree,

bequeathed back to the earth,

gave up, too

 

Our eldest brother, a mountain

we’d glimpse from far away,

vanished behind the clouds

 

In her final days, Mama closed her eyes

and swayed as your oud melodied

old lyrics, old friends

 

And now, an outstretched hand—

we’re two fingers alone, a bilingual 

peace sign proud and hopeful, yet mourning

 

You keep strumming

as my journals fill with odes to cardamom

and cloves, jasmine and wild mint

 

Each visit, I long to touch our past together,

a little sister in familiar arms

 

of remembrance

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Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American poet, writer, editor, and community activist. She is the poet laureate of the City of Alexandria, Virginia, for 2022-25. Her chapbook, Bayna Bayna, In-Between, was published in 2021 by The Poetry Box. Azzam’s poetry also appears in literary journals, anthologies, and edited volumes including Pleiades, Mizna, Sukoon, Gyroscope, Barzakh, Pensive Journal, Split This Rock, Streetlight Magazine, Cutleaf Journal, Bettering American Poetry, Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees, and Gaza Unsilenced. She holds an M.A. in Arabic literature from Georgetown University and an M.A. in sociology from George Mason University. http://www.zeinaazzam.com/