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Water & Salt

By Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Behind the walls of your jails we wait
heartbeats audible now, muffled thuds
above the current of blood running thin
indigo rivulets pulsing loud beneath parchment skin
chafing and coarse like stone walls that surround us.

We lie side to side,
we hunger for what eating cannot feed,

we carve out a sanctuary
that no beating can tear down,
no interrogation room scars can pierce

this is our ache           we decide
how we live and if we die
we decide          who gives and who takes away

we claim the freedom

to turn stone into sunlight streaming through your jails
to sip water and salt like sacrament


to own our bodies and the land beneath them
to breathe the air on both sides of the wall


to wait and wait
for your checkpoints and your watchtowers
to be subsumed in a crashing wave

of water and salt
you never saw it coming, this cleansing,
how we have become this ocean.

Added: Friday, October 6, 2017  /  From "Water & Salt," (Red Hen Press, 2017). Used with permission.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her book of poems, Water & Salt, is published by Red Hen Press. She is the winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize for her chapbook Arab in Newsland. She has been published and has work forthcoming in journals including Kenyon Review Online, Black Warrior Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Massachusetts Review. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and anthologized in books including Being Palestinian. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and an MFA from Pacific Lutheran University. Please visit her website.

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