Lena Khalaf Tuffaha


We name a place by what it keeps

out           what it wards off,

name our sanctuary after what can consume it.

We live on the edge of a growing desert

and water with abiding faithfulness

the apricot trees, the midnight-skinned eggplants.
We take what is sour and let it smolder

in sugar             in flames

to loosen the knot of sun and time

at its core,

to stave off a winter in jar after jar

of what light has made,

what our hands have gathered.
We hold the ravenous march at bay

in the shade of a quiet cabinet.

We remember that, even in its name,

stone harbors some

of the damp alphabet of ocean.

*-Syrian Arabic word for pantry, derived from the word for ants.


Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
is  American poet and translator of Arab heritage. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming from Lunch Ticket, Borderlands Texas Review, Mizna, Monarch Review and Sukoon. She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize (for 2015 and 2016) and her first collection of poetry, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in Spring 2017.