Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner and Colorado Review. She is the author of two poetry collections, “Atrium” (Three Rooms Press, 2012), which was awarded the Arab American Book Award in Poetry, and the forthcoming “Four Cities” (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). Her third collection, “Hijra,” was recently selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2016. She lives in Manhattan.
Here’s a sample poem
In the City of Fire
The years pass. We leave the wreckage for the birds
and live in skyscrapers now,
hang paintings of glaciers mid-thaw.
When the city meets her tombs,
we pour whiskey into tumblers and sigh. We say
this country makes you hard. Even the dead starve.
The mothers march parades through the cemetery.
Joy is for the afterlife, they say,
and drape the headstones with myrrh and lace.
The keys hang between the breasts of our daughters now.
They palm cigarettes and speak of revolution.
We tell them the prophets have been dead for ages,
the flags crumbled in the riots.
Our hands fill like volcanos at the dying cities
but we tore the atlas into psalms.
In our houses we leave every light bulb burning,
keep the music cranked up loud and fast
for the god we will never let sleep.
This event was funded in part by Poets & Writers, Inc. through public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.