Poetry Suite by Asma Alqudah

Editor Carrie Seitzinger, Poetry, May 9th, 2017

"arms full of mint leaves, your hands full of nectar, and your eyes wet, I knew..."

Asma Alqudah Poetry Nailed Magazine

poems by Asma Alqudah.

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Funeral Song


I’m half surprised by
the sleet’s footwork, how it cleaves the pavement
to fall into the parched root like a drunken lover,
dropping salt to the intelligent wound
more disinfectant than assault.
We have something in common with
gutters, that mesh of a basin, post-nasal drip
silt in the matterless canvas,
a place for the freezing of dandelion seeds
and the stillbirth of pigeon eggs.
Snow showers have a way of
making concrete plates reconsider
their coarse epicurean glut and yield
to the waltz of quarter-moon drops.

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Jen, I Can’t Stay


From dollar bill to needle to spoon to gloom to orange to pale pale pale
under a Mexican sun with my hand on her thigh
with her smile as dry as a cactus root
she loses touch with her fingertips.

We talk in powder deliria
lick every corner of erasure clean
until circles break at the edges of our lips
and we collapse into bed fully clothed and
halfway spoken.

We awaken to the X of shadow
high and long on the concrete, escape through the window
still high and wandering, and broke.
Under her eyebrow
the brightest city I’ve ever seen.

She says, I can’t write that down!
It doesn’t need to be a poem!
She’s not Frida Kahlo!
I’m not a tourist!

In the spoon, we fight, she won’t break
fast on juice soaked cotton,
her eyes sink far beyond reach.
Small galaxies of black tar.

And she’s lost before she’s stuttered once.
Melts away with the sun in a blink of dusk
thinner than ever, paler than rain.

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In the language of black irises—
I hid under a mosaic underbelly, a roof
in the curve of your eyebrows.
The way “mehrab” sounds like
The way I reorient my tongue to the right,
the sunnah of escape route,
the way my mother’s mother did
when the tiles of Damascus shook.
The way her wombs recoiled,
but left us alive to eat scraps of harakaat.
The way “harakaat” tastes like
…………“ma3rakaat” and then
stills, like every storm
both spoken and worshipped.

I’ve learned to name each grain of rice
to know the spaces between them.
This one is “hara,” that one is “harara”
this one is “qalbi,” and that one is “qabri.”
The wind howls in the middle,
and each mouthful buries the speaker.


*Mehrab – indicates direction of prayer
*Tehrab – she runs away/she escapes
*Harakaat – sub-vowels (in Arabic writing)
*Ma3rakaat – wars/battles
*Hara – alley
*Harara – fever
*Qalbi – my heart
*Qabri – my grave

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Thoughts About Drowning


Green is the Passaic with the urban in my hand.
Her belly mossy, and I, the borne monster
caravan at the edge where dandelion trail
meets sulky water, I’ll suck her delicious

Pregnant soccer ball, all lonesome
her head deflated
getting real intimate with a collapsed Gatorade bottle
in a dog pit.

Skip a pebble into the flat abyss to
bring orgasm to a pale blemish
on the face of New Jersey.
Smoke a cigarette to
sentence her to a fogless guillotine.
Pluck her long grasses
to make her less pretty.

I gorge on sallow hearts here.
Suck the blood and dispose
of loose organs to the river’s
glass bottom.

And ducks, witnesses,
know the treason I’ve committed.
Blame me less for my muddy boots
and more for my seedy buttocks.
See less of my face
and more of my swinging shoulders
and I’m older to them than
I probably am.

I sit in assembly.
The gloom of flowering cloudwork under
purple fingers and smokes
outline faces on pressed dirt, so when
we choke/ together on bubbles
and loose rubble and sheet rock and
factory smoke
I’ll live.

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Mint Jam (after T.S. Eliot)

October has the cruelest mouth, dropping
lilacs out of a dead hand, mixing
saltwater and pectin, stirring
mint roots with spring rain.

Winter broke our hearts, covering
cutting boards in cocaine, feeding
a little life with dry leaves.

Summer craved protection, coming over Piermont
with a shower of rain, we twisted our marrow,
went on in shadows, into the Smoke Room,
and drank whiskey, and fucked for an hour.

Ana leisat imra’a beyda’, ana min Al-Urdun lakin Filistiniya1

And when we were cell clots, bubbling in a blank womb,
my Father, he took me out of the stars,
and I was frightened. He said, Ighraqi2
Islimi3, and hold on tight. And down I spun.
I read, much of the night, and bleed every month.

What are the boots that march, what rootless growth
under the stony rubble? Daughterless hands,
you can’t long, or rest, you speak only
a heap of broken phrases, where the drum beats,
and the plum tree gives no birthplace, the cicada
no song,
the hyphen flash no sound of slaughter. Only
there is shadow under this eye
(come on the shadow under this eye)
and I will show you something dangerous from either
your broken sole shredding behind you
or the sirens at night craving to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of —you decide

Al Hawaa’ Nashfa
A3dhami kamaan,
Ya ukhti, ya Dameshq

“You gave me a notsung not too long before;
“They called me the whistle kid.”
—When we came back home, arms full of mint leaves,
your hands full of nectar, and your eyes wet, I knew
your eyes were failing, and your creases couldn’t unstick
even in the dark, you were half-sung,
in the eye of the pot, the silence.
Mawt wa mil7 al-Bahr5


1 I am not a white woman, I am Jordanian, really Palestinian
2 Drown
3 Submit
4 The wind is stale
My bones too
O sister, Damascus
Where are you?
5 Death and salt is the sea

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Header image courtesy of Jessica Dunegan. To view her Artist Feature, go here.

Asma Alqudah Poetry Nailed MagazineAsma Alqudah is a Jordanian and Syrian-American writer and prospective JD student in 2017. Asma is the 2017 winner of the Tom Benediktsson Award for Poetry and lives in New Jersey with her cat, Missy. In her free time, she writes, rants, reads, and cooks.



Carrie Seitzinger

Carrie Seitzinger is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Seitzinger is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.
Learn more about her at her official site.