Journalism In Verse


Ghazal for Jack Aboud Shabi

in Middle East/Politics by

You rise as if from a dream, your fingers honeycombed in a bowl soaking the tamarind’s tender pulp.
The black-eyed madwoman of Shari’ al Rasheed searches for you, finds your clinic battered to a pulp.

Still, Basra’s thick beds shelter what’s left of waterlilies from the flood-pulses of another heavy spring.
The marbled teal you grow up chasing suddenly shuts its beak, crushing the nabog fruit into a pulp.

The day they come for you, Kahramana’s copper skin turns ugly olive green, her braided crown unravels.
How too, our exit out of this circular city is an unraveling, a pouring and pouring of the boiling oily pulp.

In Arabic: ابحر الرجل the man oceaned, the man became an ocean, the man deepened as if the ocean.
The psychiatric patients in Al-Rashad bite holes through their bagged water, suck out life’s sweet pulp.

After the looting, you stand stunned, a child in the market made suddenly aware of his stutter.
Salam to the hospital beds baring your name, the sounds that almost make a language, carry its pulp.


Joumana Altallal was born in Baghdad to Iraqi and Lebanese parents. She is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia and is currently a first year MFA candidate in poetry at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program. She works with Citywide Poets to lead an after-school poetry program for high school students in Metro Detroit. Her work appears in the Virginia Literary Review, Inkstone, and Jaffat al-Aqlam, among others.

Photograph by the U.S. Marine Corps.

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