Gardenia // Ghardenia
The cream, the ivory
the soft petals floating
in tamed waters.
Dig your hole into the palms
of an earth smooth, smooth
it might crumble.
Like the words, an effort
of the throat, lips,
tongue, and heart.
Where did I leave the cup
the one with the floating
gardenia? On the balcony
the door open so that, yes,
the air might slip out,
and the dawn might spill in.
I heard you wake up before
the light had a chance to put on you.
I heard the soft crash
of glass on the balcony.
Jasmine // Yasmeen
The first time she held a jasmine
she threw it up to the sky
The small petals crowned her
tiny fingers, their short reign left traces
of herself in them.
Nearby birds let themselves
get carried away
by swinging branches.
The first time I saw her spine
through the hospital gown
slit with flowers sandpapered
against her skin,
samples of undefeated blood
colored some of them purple.
The bare IV vines wrapped
over her open mouth
over some part of her that is now missing.
Narcissus // Nargis
When I gather the water of ablution, it is
to force the disappointments to streak
my face, to check the soil in the pot
to forget twice a week, to feel dry
the top inch of soil like the layer
of my mother’s skin, wet always
when she prays.
It is the distant rumble of late august
the too soon out leaves
of bulbs bloomed to chill from six weeks
to six months to a life.
Time new again but still the old meaning.
Poppy // Khaskhash
Since the late august sky
Pressed together its evening dusks.
Since the water began to flow
backwards in the Barada river,
smoothing the riverbeds, its fatal
caress the talk over dinners.
Since the street signs in geometric,
familiar letters were replaced
by their counterparts in a rigid, straight
alphabet. Ever since the grace
of dawn receded to the untidy eclipse
of scattered afternoons one after the other
after the other. Since
One phone call and eleven years of ruptured quiet
grieving while fingering her rosary, since
my mother left the sand banks
of a thousand elegized city
she no longer returns to. Since marriage
since children, since the early tide
of a long war. Ever since she catches
her body over the bed,
somewhere near her throat,
her fears are caught too.
Tuberose Season // Mawsim al-Zambaq
The tuberose has a short season
of wilting and growing.
Her fingertips smell of it,
I left them in a vase by the window.
The perfumery in Damascus has crystal
bottles of different sizes, all clear
full of liquid flower.
He measures out 50ml of tuberose—
travel size containers from Syria.
The smell wafts
from the bottle as he dips it
towards her wrist, she rubs together
skin and tuberose and oil.
How does the smell reach her fingertips,
her hair, the corner of her eyes—
But the flowers here are limp
whenever she walks by the flower stand.
Outside of Syria they have a weak smell,
she says, so she handles them
softly between her fingertips.
the bottle of tuberose liquid
is down to its last ml.
TEXT: LUBNA SAFI
ART: ADNAN SAMMAN