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The Clouds Followed Us: Two Poems by Hala Alyan

‘We begged our bodies for / alchemy, death into new lungs, we fed bread / to the jinn’

By Hala Alyan

Come hear Haya Alyan read alongside Zeina Hashem Beck and J. Mae Barizo tonight, Tuesday, April 12, at AAWW.




Sleepwalkers, uterus dust, you heard the gunfire

and folded into clay. We begged our bodies for
alchemy, death into new lungs, we fed bread

to the jinn. The clouds followed us, a scrap
of summer moon as gazelles made a meal of ash.

We became seamstresses, mapping departure
into our eyelids. Allah’s calligraphy stitched

our vertebra. We wrote their unsaid names
on parchment, buried them in boxes, gave birth

to our daughters in caves. When our breasts wept
milk for months, we drank it ourselves.

(Originally published in Colorado Review)






The men burnt flags and draped shrouds
in their place. They marshalled the spirits of the

village, pulsing in little jugs atop the mantle.
We dressed like stones for them, gray, submerged,

ready to be pitched. Every evening we rinsed
their feet with dark water bowls, steadied them

for Allah. The night folded into their skin—
freckles from where the dead kissed them.

When they dreamt of horses in the river, a sky
with thunder for drowned animals galloped,

we watched the fever dew their foreheads, and pled
for ice. Even the white dawn couldn’t make

the men smile, and so we split ourselves for them.
We forgave the love that coiled in their fists.

(Originally published in Prairie Schooner)