Shatt Al-Arab

in Environment by

By boat to Basra where the stiff stalk
fills the body dry,

the musician blows across her mouthpiece
and the reed vibrates;

a dozen warblers spread their slender wings
but do not fly.

Back when the body could imagine
how it used to live

inside the water yet suddenly it
cannot find any water to drink.

In the early mornings spent on waiting boats
to dry-land towns

hands cracking with salinity carry
the perfume of amber rice, the nausea of leaving.



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.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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