Eating the Earth
And to the flour
add water, only
a thin stream whispering gathered
rains of a reticent winter.
And to the flour add oil, only
a glistening thread snaking through
ridges and ravines of what
sifts through your fingers,
what sinks, moist and burdened
between your palms.
And in the kneading
hinge forward, let the weight
of what you carry on your shoulders,
the luster of your language, shade
of your story press into the dough.
And to the dough bring
the signature of your fingertips, stretch
the canvas before you, summer linen
of wheat and autumn velvet of olive oil,
smooth like a map
of silence and fragrance,
of invisible terrains of memory.
And on the dough let the green leaves
sumac stars flickering among them
shards of onion in their midst.
Scatter them as the wind would
or gather them in the center of this earth
and fold them into the tender embrace
of the dough, cool and soft beneath their bodies.
And make a parcel of the dough,
filled with foraged souvenirs,
fold them in, and then again,
let their silhouettes gaze back at you.
Recall found treasures of hillside
wandering; flint, thorn
blossom and a hoopoe
feather carried home in your skirt.
And to the flames surrender
the bread, gift of your hands.
Grasp its tender edges and turn it
as the heat strafes and chars
this landscape you have caressed.
Some grandmothers sing as they bake,
others speak prayers.
And let the edges bristle to the color
of earth, let the skin of the bread scar.
The song of zaatar simmering
in its native oil rises up
and time evaporates. You are young
again, it is spring
in the greening valley.
*zaatar – wild thyme native to the Levant
Previously published in Sukoon and subsequently published in Water & Salt (Red Hen Press, 2017).
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her book of poems, Water & Salt, is published by Red Hen Press. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net and her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, is the winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize. Most recently, has work has been published or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Creek Review, Diode, and the Rumpus. Lena is a Hedgebrook alum and an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. To learn more, please visit her web site www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com