Every empire tells its subjects a story
of revelation. The trees let down
their aging leaves, listless
in late drought. The children thrive on filtration,
their classroom air and their selfies sanitized.
Every empire seems invincible
as its borders submerge, its manicured hillsides
incinerate between guaranteed
Every empire eulogizes
its value system, splurges
for pyrotechnics, decorates
its mausoleums for the holidays.
Every empire turns
against its colonies, cradling
the embassy’s crystal in bubble wrap,
packing extra treats for the dogs on the evacuation flight home.
Every empire promises
a revolution against itself. The children
are tasked with designing the future, growing
walls of hydroponic greens,
rebranding old protest anthems.
Every empire denies the iceberg
it crashes into, hires a chorus, funds the arts.
Every empire sings itself a lullaby.
On the Thirteenth Friday
We Consider Plurals
At the border, a flock of journalists.
A sacrifice of tires burned behind us.
Beneath the picnic tents, a funeral of families.
What else will be in Gaza if we gather,
if we carry our voices to the razored edge?
We were met by a gallop of prayers,
clamoring recitatives puncture the shroud
of humid air. We were met by a delirium
of greetings, peace-be-upon-us surreal
between embraces, the horizon locked
and loaded. What is upon us
will require mercy. Let the plural be
a return of us. A carnage of blessings—
bodies freed from broken promises,
from the incumbrances of waiting.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. She is the author of three books of poetry, Water & Salt (Red Hen, 2017), Kaan and Her Sisters (Trio House, 2023), and Something About Living, winner of the 2022 Akron Prize for Poetry, forthcoming from University of Akron Press. Find her at www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com