Ghazal with Wonder


by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha


It’s evening at my writing desk and both these spaces
are a silence, the dimly-lit expanse of years stretching one

after another. You are perpetual motion, the suitcase a shadow
always trailing you. Write me an actual letter, just this once,

I asked when you were on your way again
and what passes for conversation felt like one

long medley, a slender tape twisting on itself
garbled lyrics catching between the cassette tracks. ”One.”

you used to say, reaching for my hand, and it was a complete
sentence, our song. There was time for long drives, time to sing one

favorite after the other on long drives, off-key and gleeful,
but what time is it now where you’ve landed? One

night a coyote’s lonely serenade kept me company. Oh, to call
out with such abandon. I’m humming انت اللي بحبه أنا in the car, one

traffic light at a time, the entire song a chorus, a proclamation. I want
your words, even years and wars and children later. I want one

letter, the deliberation of address, time stilled for a moment,
even now to know myself, to read my name as I did once

in wonder, in our own language.

LENA KHALAF TUFFAHA is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first full-length book of poems, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press), won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvia’s Press Prize. She is the grateful recipient of the 2019 Robert Watson Literary Prize and an Artist Trust Fellowship.  Her poems have been published in journals including Blackbird, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day feature. Her essays and book reviews have been published in The Rumpus, Kenyon Review Online, World Literature Today, and Poetry Northwest. Her newest chapbook, Letters from the Interior, is published by Diode Editions.

Photo: “Love Letters” by Roel Wijnants