Two Poems

by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

When the Sky is No Longer a Womb for Prayers

Besieged inside your throat
prayers hum over whistles
and shrieks—the long howl
puncturing what was.

Silence is the first casualty.
You no longer fear the clamor,
not because you are brave, but
because you’ve learned that death arrives
noiselessly, hovering
in the bowels of a missile,

that the clamor means
you are alive and someone else is dying.
You note the bleakness of your own heart
that wants to live in spite of this.



Tonight the sky shines.
black silk of darkness
falls in thin strands above
the brow of a blood-red moon.
Silent, as are the people gathered
to witness its eclipse, this clot-thick
exceptional moon. It hangs low
in Kunduz, too as the surgeons
scrub with vigor and tenderness each finger,
each crevice in the palms of their hands
that prepare to salvage, to heal.

Exceptional, this American night
that sleeps in the comfort of
a history made, a leader once imagined
impossible, who turns out to be
human. Dream-born, our own, and no
stranger to the world. And yet, there are
exceptions. The promises of peace
that fly low and fast on the backs
of our drones, or glide along the sleek
missiles we gift to those who tell
the same legends we do about brown bodies.
We are exceptional in our prayers, in our longing
for what we, with our own hands unhinge,
what we, with our infinite silences, make possible.


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About Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American poet of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming from journals including Blackbird, Borderlands Texas Review, Lunch Ticket, Indianola Review, Sukoon, Mizna and the Ofi Press Mexico. Two of her poems have been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Her first book of poems, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2017. She lives in Redmond, Washington with her family and studies Poetry at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is online at