Water & Salt

Water & Salt

by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha


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Water & Salt by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha's debut, Water & Salt, sings in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage. These poems alternately rage, laugh, celebrate and grieve, singing in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage and inviting the reader to see the human lives lived beyond the headlines.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597090292
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publication date: 04/27/2017
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 1,254,772
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American poet of Palestinian, Jordanian and Syrian heritage. Her poems have been published in American and international journals including Blackbird, The Boiler, Borderlands Texas Review, The Indianola Review, James Franco Review, The Lake for Poetry, Lunch Ticket, Mizna, The Ofi Press Mexico, Sukoon, and the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art. Several of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, “Immigrant” in 2015 and for “Middle Village” and “Ruin” in 2016. She is an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She lives in Redmond, Washington, with her family.

Read an Excerpt


“Tu’burni” is a common Syrian term of endearment that translates as “bury me” and means “I love you so much I hope I’m the one that dies first.”

As a child, the syrup of

my grandmother’s lilting sweet nothings

seemed otherworldly.

Her Syrian phrases stretched wide as an embrace,

jasmine petals bathed in her laughter.

Tu’burni—bury me!

Beloved of my heart

my life and my soul.

When I balked at the dark prayer

wrapped in love’s silks

my mother translated:

Let me be

the one who goes first,

let my heart never live a day without you,

children should bury their elders.

In my grandmother’s old

Damascus neighborhood,

slender-limbed boys and girls

scrubbed clean of war’s detritus

sleep soundlessly

in shrouds against the stone wall of a schoolroom.

The dark prayer,


burns to white ash.

In the homeland of jasmine,

childhood drowned

in a poison with no fragrance.

Table of Contents

I You Will Need to State the Reason for Your Visit

Upon Arrival 15

Grand mothering 16

Time Travel 17

Rules for Recitation 20

Immigrant 22

My English Teacher Tells Me 24

Damascus Dowry Chest 26

Dhayaa' 27

Circling the Dome of the Sky 28

Eating the Earth 29

Tu'burni 31

II Emerging From the Ancient Wound

Drowning 35

Mountain, Stone 36

Water & Salt 37

Running Orders 39

Abu Nasser 41

Intifada Portrait 43

Again and Again 45

Ruin 47

Blue Morning Music 49

Mount Sinjar 52

Newsworthy 54

Superpowers 58

Exceptional 60

It's Beirut out Here 61

III Amulets for the Journey

Almond Trilogy 65

National Security Advisory 68

Wasta 70

Instructions for Making Arabic Coffee 72

Amman Coiffure 74

My Mother Returns to Her Childhood Home 75

The Whole Point 77

Translation 79

Lighthouse 80

Relocation 81

Many Hats 84

Middle Village 85

Time Management 87

Copybooks 89

Linger 91

Cruising Altitude 93

Naming It 94

Subterranean 95

Notes 97

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