Zeina Azzam

Syrian Refugee at the Dental Clinic; Traveling with the Speed of Light: Zeina Azzam

Syrian Refugee at the Dental Clinic

Eman from Homs is 20 years old.
At 13 she married and got pregnant
with the first of four children.

A broken tooth and three cavities,
baby on her breast,
mouth wincing in pain.

Eman never learned to use a toothbrush
to clean accumulated tar, plaque,
or microscopic bits of food

left over from her journey a month ago.
Maybe that’s why she clenches
her teeth, to keep the taste of home.

Traveling with the Speed of Light

News from Damascus scrolls on TV,
a morning chat with a friend just home
from work, seven hours in the future.
My hands can almost touch the cyclamen
on West Bank hills, as if tending flowers
in my backyard. The corniche road
winding around Beirut’s tip hugging
the sea, so close to my doorstep.

As world wanderers we click on screens,
sift symbols, look with sister eyes
in oval lenses of intersecting circles,
the radius of the voyage invisible.
Stories between ethereal mouths and
ears, voices in bits and bytes penetrate
thick mountains, deserts. We measure
epiphanies in seconds, move on,

leave unintended footprints:
there are dreams of tented trysts,
shards of conversations, mistakes—
maybe second thoughts—deleted.
Like dense coffee grounds lining once
welcoming cups, or small bowls of dull
olive pits, a sadness. Only scintillas
of thoughts linger, a salty taste in memory.

Now in Washington a white moon blooms
while the sun throws rays on Jerusalem
and Amman…and this luminous language
of loving: imaginary lines around the globe,
a curving cage of messages at the speed
of light. We reach out, draw in, close as
the space between fingers on a keyboard,
far as the great meridian from pole to pole.

“Syrian Refugee at the Dental Clinic” and “Traveling with the Speed of Light” are forthcoming in Bayna Bayna: In-Between by Zeina Azzam (The Poetry Box, 2021). https://thepoetrybox.com/bookstore/bayna

“Traveling with the Speed of Light” won the 30 for 30 Poetry Celebration sponsored by Potomac Review and was originally published on https://mikemaggio.net/zeina-azzam/

Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American poet, editor, and community activist. She volunteers for organizations that promote Palestinian rights and the civil rights of vulnerable communities in Alexandria, Virginia, where she is active with the group Grassroots Alexandria. She also serves as a mentor for We Are Not Numbers, a writing program for youth in Gaza. Zeina's chapbook, Bayna Bayna, In-Between, is published by The Poetry Box. Her poems appear in Pleiades, Cordite Poetry Review, Mizna, Sukoon Magazine, Split This Rock, Passager, Barzakh: A Literary Magazine, Voice Male, and the edited volumes Tales from Six Feet Apart, Bettering American Poetry, Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees, and Gaza Unsilenced, among others. Zeina holds an M.A. in Arabic literature from Georgetown University.