From ‘Diasporenga’

Marilyn Hacker

     A collaboration in alternating renga

After she died, he’d lie down
on the great white bed
where she used to comb

his eyebrows with her fingers
until he fell asleep. He’d wake

to the early evening
muezzin, the roasting freekah,
and the poem:

Sitting in a garden
ropes of wisteria


                                                  Sitting on damp grass,
                                                  she recites the Fatiha
                                                  on Dickinson’s lawn.

                                                  Slowly, her Anglophone friend
                                                  repeats each verse after her.

                                                  “When I go home, I’ll
                                                  either build a house or buy
                                                  a plot for a grave.”

                                                  “Insh’allah, you’ll build a house.
                                                  Keep that line for a poem.”


Green house with large
veranda, orange-black
swirls on tulip tiles.

Ibaa’ slices lemons,
dips them into salt, smiles

as the other women sing:
“Tal’aa min beit âb’ouha.”
In a few hours, she’ll wax

her entire body. Lemon sores
on tongue, newborn baby skin,


                                                  A sore on his tongue,
                                                  the accent he has now in
                                                  his father’s language—

                                                  again, a taxi driver
                                                  asked him “Âîna darasta?”

                                                  High-rise in Detroit,
                                                  hospital in south Beirut,
                                                  every cloned airport— 

                                                  razed port town’s morning-coffee
                                                  syllables he’s never heard.


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