The Female of the Species
They leave the country with gasping babies and suitcases
full of spices and cassettes. In airports,
they line themselves up like wine bottles.
The new city twinkles beneath an onion moon.
Birds mistake the pebbles of glass on the
black asphalt for bread crumbs.
If I drink, I tell stories about the women I know.
They break dinner plates. They marry impulsively.
When I was a child I watched my aunt throw a halo
of spaghetti at my mother. Now I’m older than they were.
In an old-new year, my cousin shouts ana bint Beirut
at the sleeping houses. She clatters up the stairs.
I never remember to tell her anything. Not the dream
where I can’t yell loud enough for her to stop running.
And the train comes. And the amar layers the stones
like lichen. How the best night of my life was the one
she danced with me in Paris, sharing a hostel bed,
and how sometimes you need one knife to carve another.
It’s raining in two cities at once. The Vendôme plaza
fills with water and the dream, the fountain, the moon
explodes open, so that Layal, Beirut’s last daughter,
can walk through the exit wound.
from The Twenty-Ninth Year: Poems by Hala Alyan. Copyright © 2019 by Hala Alyan. Used by permission by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.