talisman
it is written
the act of writing is
holy words are
sacred and your breath
brings out the
god in them
i write these words
quickly repeat them
softly to myself
this talisman for you
fold this prayer
around your neck fortify
your back with these
whispers
may you walk ever
loved and in love
know the sun
for warmth the moon
for direction
may these words always
remind you your breath
is sacred words
bring out the god
in you

daughter
leaves and leaving call october home
her daughter releases wood
smoke from her skin
rich in scorpio
blood survived the first
flood each new year marks
a circle around her
thick bark middle
this the month summer and
winter fall into each
other and leave orange
yellow ashes
the vibrancy of death
carry it all
coiled in my belly
cut on the cusp
of libra tail
tips the scales
tonight it is raining in
the tradition of my parents
wanted a daughter not a writer
happy birthday poet
who loves you baby
the way your mama did
under her breast the way your
father did under his breath
leaves and leaving have known
my name intimately
i harvest pumpkins
to offer the river eat
buttered phoenix meat
to celebrate a new year
new cipher for my belly
i got a new name
secret nobody knows
the cold can't call me
leaving won't know
where to find me
october gonna hide me
in her harvest in
her seasons
happy birthday daughter
of the falling

4:02 p.m.
poem supposed to be about
one minute and the lives of three women in it
writing it and up
the block a woman killed
by her husband

poem now about one minute
and the lives of four women
in it

haitian mother
she walks through
town carrying her son's
head—banging it against
her thigh calling out
creole come see, see what
they've done to my flesh

holds on to him grip tight
through hair wool
his head all that's
left of her

in tunisia
she folds pay up into stocking
washes his european semen
off her head
hands her heart to god
and this month's rent to mother
sings berber the gold
haired one favored me, rode
and ripped my flesh, i now
have food to eat

brooklyn lover
stumbles—streets ragged under sneakers
she carries her heart
banged up against
thighs crying ghetto
look, look what's been done with
my flesh, my trust, humanity,
somebody tell me
something good


the missing
the way loss seeps
into neck hollows
and curls at temples
sits between front teeth
cavity
empty and waiting
for mourning to open
the way mourning stays
forever shadowing vision
shaping lives with memory
a drawer won't close
sleep elusive
smile illusive
the only real is grief
forever counting the days
minutes missing without knowing
so that one day
you find yourself
showering tears
missing that love
like sugar
aches teeth

land
his approach
to love he said
was that of a farmer
most love like
hunters and like
hunters most kill
what they desire
he tills
soil through toes
nose in the wet
earth he waits
prays to the gods
and slowly harvests
ever thankful

All poetry © 2001 Suheir Hammad

Twenty-eight-year-old Palestinian-American poet and political activist Suheir Hammad has published a book of poems, Born Palestinian, Born Black, and a memoir, Drops Of This Story, and is prominently featured in Listen Up! An Anthology Of Spoken Work Poetry. Recipient of the Audre Lourde Writing Award from Hunter College, the Morris Center for Healing Poetry Award, and a New York Mills Artist Residency in Minnesota, Hammad is a frequent reader at New York reading venues, including numerous radio appearances, and has performed with The All That Band and Rhythms of Aqua. Naomi Shihab Nye has called Hammad's work "a brave flag over the dispossessed."

In addition to her work as a creative artist, Hammad has written and spoken out about issues such as the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, domestic violence, sexual abuse, racism, and homophobia. She also writes a literary column for Stress magazine.

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