Tea at Chez Paul’s


From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
Finalist in Pablo Neruda Awards, first published by Nimrod International Journal Awards 25 (2003).
Inclined To Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry (2008).


Trapped in his backyard,
an old man
thinks of cafés,
backgammon games, dice
thrown over inlaid wood.
Fingertips folded
on an empty palm, hand
recapturing the lost motion,
he draws on his pipe,
reviving crackling embers,
attentive to the divas’ deep
vibrato, Feyrouz,
Sabah, Om

He breeds canaries
in a shed, feeds them egg
shells, slices of apple.
Each dawn, he hangs
cages on the trellis
overlooking the swing
waters his vegetables,
precious seeds
flown from far away,
curled cucumbers,
a special vine from Lebanon
its silken leaves
fit for stuffing.

Rolling patience beads
made of coral,
he sits for hours
under the covered porch.
Lips stuck to the tip
of the painted pipe,
he thanks the Lord,
his grandchildren
would live free
in the New World.
Does it matter if,
his soul sinks
in an iridescent flask,
blown into eddies of smoke?
Eastern voices mix
with the birds’ song, Sabah,
Om Kolsoum,

Carefully kindling coals
with tongs, he watches
arabesques, swirls emerging
from underwater, imprisoned
in the blown glass,
bursting at the surface,
deafened words
of a drowned Phoenician sailor,
the last words
of those dying
without knowing why.

From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
First published by Curbside Review 4 (2003).


Only at dusk is one swept by the deep
sweet scent of milkweed,
a turbulence
in the evening’s crisp air. Scepters,
edging the road in triple rows,
crowned by pink,
minute star-like flowers
linked by invisible rays.

I pull the thick stem, an ancestral
freeing hairy filaments
from rain-soaked earth, to bury
in the creek’s
moist soil.
Rubbing my sticky fingers, I wonder
what powers lie
in the white bleeding
of broken leaves, the stigmata of purple
veins, cures lost
with old shamans,
before this land was named Michigan.

And I think of Lebanon, the green figs
we grew in the mountains
of Baabdat,
figs picked, children climbing forbidden
fences. At the bottom of each fig,
a white tear
covered the circular scar,
a tear, beading from invisible pores,
sheathing our skin
with transparent gloves.

I hear my mother’s voice, an echo
of ancient wisdom,
purification rites:
“Never rub your eyes before washing
or you’ll go blind!” Would milkweed
sap heal
sightless eyes, unaware
of star-like flowers
offering their last silk-winged seed?

A swarm of bees milks intangible beads;
I inhale the dizzying
scent, anchoring
myself in increasing darkness. A spark
reveals hidden berries,
the whiteness
of a Daisy, Queen Ann’s lace,
springing from nowhere,
greener in a darkened back alley
between three black

trunks, rising motes of flame
in the cool liminal hour,
vision inside vision,
inside me, at the verge of the night,
the wild dance
of heated elytra
everywhere around grass and wildflower,

attentive only to that mysterious,
incoherent language,
emerging from folds
of bark, creased blades of grass,
moisture trapped
in lichen, in humus,
underneath flattened, blackened oak leaves.

From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
First published in Sulphur River Literary Review 13 3 (1997).
Inclined To Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry (2008)

Under the Crescent Moon

The violonist has grown wings,
the donkey is flying.
The bride and groom listen all night-long
to the blue notes cascading over the red-tiled roof.

They hear a secret tune,
each from a different slice of the moon.

He takes off his Top hat, unties his black knot,
hums to the opalescence marking
the beginning of his dance.

Dovelike, she lies in embroidered sheets,
her ruffled dress rests on a chair like discarded wings.
She knows her waist will swell by the full moon,
dreams of its dark side where Chagall is hiding.

From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
First published in Sulphur River Literary Review 20 2 (2004).

Missing Words

We both stared at the illuminated images
of what must have been a rare book. Its pages
seemed to turn on their own, one by one,
following the rhythm of our breath–were we so afraid
to touch its precious leaves?

I noticed faded characters here and there, like
distant memories, missing lines rubbed away by fingers
or written in invisible ink, perhaps words never said,
unable to fall in proper order–could the writer or scribe
have wished to light a match, imagined its fire racing along the
elongated curves of the phrase, erasing even the traces
of his thought?

Then came an empty page, papyrus-like, arresting,
intimidating the one about to stamp it with the colors
of life–what ever happened to this page, I wondered,
realizing you were gone

From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
First published in Puerto del Sol 38 1 (2003).


Without any sound, waves permeate the floor, algae cover the curtains with an insidious verdigris patina, and she watches herself, complacent, looking awry in the mirror while she unbuttons her black evening dress, a mirror that remains empty like her own life. Seated in a sofa, back turned, he drowns in his indifference into the surge, and surely, it is his face that is seen reflected in the portrait hanging on the wall, an immersed look, barely visible behind the wide-open newspaper. Waters rise to the rhythm of the notes resounding from the rear window, in which a man with a white wig plays the piano, as though it were Mozart composing his Requiem. The painter raises inexorably the level of the waters, and the woman knows that even in that last moment, she will only be fulfilled by drowning in the torrent furtively surrounding them.

First published by Dance Macabre

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)


Lament of an old Lebanese.

I have lost count
of nights
lulling myself to sleep,
of magical signs,
salawat, unheard
my rosary,
restrung so many times,
I can no longer
Ave from Gloria.
I could be imploring Allah,
my beads
the same size,
as my neighbor Yasmine’s
who lost
her two sons.

All of us
of the Book,
all faithful, burned incense,
in the right direction,
all wept
at the wakes of loved ones.
Now, in each home
an oil lamp lights
black picture frames.
A flat stone
against my heart,
the used up
words, eroding
the tip of our tongue,
our lips, our soul,
keep coming
back, salawat,
like water falling

From Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53, 2013)
First published by Parting Gifts 9 2 (1996-1997).

Adagio por una viola d’amore olvidada


First published in Letras Femeninas Vol 33 2 (2007).
Reprinted in Poetic Voices Without Borders Vol 2 (2009) Gival Press, ed. Robert Giron.

Bajo pinceladas


Publicado por Explicación de Textos Literarios 31 2 (2002-2003).

Al Milad

Blottis autour d’une cheminée,
Ils essaient de réveillonner
Sans pour autant oublier
Les absents, les voitures piégées.

Il est si difficile de prier
Quand chaque jour se creuse le fossé
Et qu’il n’y a plus de sécurité
A l’ombre des Cèdres ennéigés.

Du fond de sa crèche, l’enfant Jésus
Semble faire la sourde oreille
A ces enfants désenchantés
Ayant perdu jusqu’au droit de rêver.

Et même la colombe désorientée
A oublié qu’elle s’est depuis longtemps
Nichée au beau milieu des oliviers.
Dis,colombe, vas-tu te décider
A reprendre ton office de courrier?

Paru dans Le Journal Français d’Amérique 7 24 (1985-1986).
Reprinted in Poetic Voices Without Borders Vol 2 (2009) Gival Press, ed. Robert Giron.

Effets du temps

Peu a peu, graduellement,
Sans effort ni peine,
Le temps, la vie routinière
Laissent leur empreinte
Sur les coeurs et l’esprit,
A la manière d’un peigne
Glissant sans résistance
Dans une chevelure en désordre.
Chaque mouvement du peigne,
Mettant en place mèche après mèche
Pour donner finalement lieu
A une coiffure nette, ordonnée,
Mais dépourvue de charme et d’attrait.

Paru dans Chimères 18 2 (1986).
Reprinted in Poetic Voices Without Borders Vol 2 (2009) Gival Press, ed. Robert Giron.


Ton grondement sourd me parvient,
obscurément étouffé par la double paroi de la baie vitrée.
De ce huitième étage, les yeux rivés à la fenêtre,
je m’extasie devant ta majestueuse beauté.
Si seulement je pouvais m’élancer a l’instar de ces mouettes
me fondre dans la blancheur de ton écume.

Rythme monotone, infernal, tes eaux bouillonnent
dans un roulement incessant, ta buée se dégage,
évanescente, épousant les nuages qui s’estompent
face à ce constant apport émanant de ton cratère ardent,
s’élançant en vapeurs glacées, caressant d’une berge
à l’autre, en guise de gouttelettes accueillantes
les visages étranges qui journellement te côtoient.

Attirés par toi sans distinction de race, ils reçoivent
ainsi le baptême égalitaire de tes puissants torrents.
Gronde, écume, exprime ta rage et ta liberté,
symbole de passion déchaînée, irréfrénée.
Ton grondement sourd me dérange.

Paru dans Chimères 18 2 (1986).
Reprinted in Poetic Voices Without Borders Vol 2 (2009) Gival Press, ed. Robert Giron.

La vieille femme

Car Femme, elle a vécu sans flamme,
Fidèle à son devoir d’état
Noyant jour après jour son âme.

Dans une barque sans rames,
Elle a vogué par ci, par là
Car Femme, elle a vécu sans flamme.

Ravalant son amertume
Goutte à goutte et sans éclats,
Noyant jour après jour son âme.

Et de trop veiller ses mômes,
Parcheminée se retrouva
Car Femme, elle a vécu sans flamme.

Privée de fruits et d’arômes,
Ses rêves aussi elle refoula
Noyant jour après jour son âme.

Au gré des flots et de son homme
Se dessécha se consuma
Car Femme, elle a vécu sans flamme,

Noyant jour après jour son âme.

Reprinted in Poetic Voices Without Borders Vol 2 (2009) Gival Press, ed. by Robert Giron.

Vases communicants