Two Poems

Lisa Suhair Majaj is a Palestinian-American writer living in Cyprus. Her poetry, creative nonfiction and critical essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies across the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. She is co-editor of three volumes of critical essays on women writers (Intersections, Going Global, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays), and the author of two poetry chapbooks. Her full-length poetry volume Geographies of Light won the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize and is forthcoming.


It rises from its stalk,
stamened tongue of March,
flaring across every wasteland
or open space (profusion
of pink-white stars)
till air itself sparks with delight!

Asphodel: known to the ancients
as nourishing and palatable food,
circulatory medicine,
glue for the shoemakers.
Lovers pluck its blossoms,
trace the delicate map of its petals;
young boys whittle its stalks to windmills.

Today, all other signs of spring –
butterflies trembling across a meadow,
kites breaking through blue air
toward a sea still thoughtful
with the memory of winter –
are but echoes of the land-flung asphodel
cresting its melody on every rock and ridge.

Here, on this green coastal slope,
before afternoon turns to night,
before tomorrow’s dawn is darkened by news
of war, before armies ready their weapons,  
before gravediggers whet their shovels
and parents prepare their tears,
let us remember the pliant asphodel:

how it rises from stony earth to joyous
air, how it bears its song so briefly,
so tenderly, so open to the light.

Episkopi, March 2003

Olive Tree

Thick in the trunk,
            twisted, knobbed
                       to a pained

beauty, bark
            like a crumbling
                        map, circuitous paths

etched by wind, rain,
            the subtle violence
                        of time. Branches

sawed off to stumps;
               circled whorls marking years
                        of living.

Gray-green leaves
                 like fingers
                        scattering light.

Home to small insects,
            nesting birds.
                        At wood's heart,

a circled privacy:
            old scars smoothed
                        by growth rings.

Shade pools in violet hush.
            Curled at the roots           
                        a child lies sleeping.

Leaves murmur
            their distant melody:
                        shadow, light.

Long day lengthens
            toward night.
                        Tree stands watching.