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Hijra (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry) by [Hala Alyan]

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Hijra (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry) Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“Hala Alyan’s prize book is cogent and unfailingly beautiful. The Arabic word hijra, rooted in Mohammed’s undaunted escape to Medina, implies an honorable departure, and the intrepid female speaker of these vigilant, striking poems, in her telltale flight toward sanity, integrity, and safety, is wholly committed to creating a bomb-proof, dazzling language capable of conveying the phantom horror of a ‘perished city’ or the grace of downcast mothers ‘draping headstones with myrrh and lace.’ Hijra is no ordinary outcry or lament: with her electric metaphors and protean descriptions (‘asters the colors of sea glass’), everything Hala Alyan touches in this keen, ruby-like book, turns to priceless testimony and needed revelation, annealing legend and hard-won song.”—Cyrus Cassells, author of The Crossed-Out Swastika

I hadn't heard of this poet before I picked up her collection in a bookstore in Queens and was immediately her use of image and mystery to explore migration and history. I love the work Southern Illinois University published (especially Charif Shanahan's Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing) and this book showed me how large a story you can tell inside of short strange-lyric poems."---Sam Sax, author of Madness, winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series Competition --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


I'll lament the seeds flung
into ocean. Roots in fish gut

and everywhere the cities leak
mouths. What remains of god is

dwarfed, taken; stars expire
beneath clouds; a comet trickles

ice. All leg and eyelash, I sought
orchards torched. Our fathers tell

the story of this luminous dust,
a soil red as zinnias.


Was it not September choking
down thunder and hail,
eating away at the cast-iron
statues until even the wings
melted into some creature
flooded and featherless,
a skyline of crackling red trees

Was it not footfall that came through
the roofs of river houses,
floorboards beneath wolves
howling flight, saying hide
the girls for God's sake;
they're coming and they're starved

Everywhere sulfur rises, crocuses explode,
lovers walk in pecan groves
and smell rust, rows of oleander
within the monsoon

Each gold finch
unhooks her song at dusk,
as militias gather lungs


There is a tunnel, elsewhere, that I live in.
It is a house full of nails and not one hammer.

By midmorning cicadas narrate testaments.
I name my daughters after the fled villages,

Akka, Qira. They speak the language of falcons,
lyrics about animal hearts, succulent,

red. They awaken the mice with their dreaming.
If there is a husband, he salts the soil.

Nothing is merciful with him, and when he sings
I see twenty women tearing satin dresses,

black finches swarming the coast.
He says I have hands like Baghdad.

I wonder if he means the tending or the torching.


They said burn the keys
but only our hair caught fire.

We walked to the borders
with photographs and letters:
this is where the dying began
their dying, this is where
they knifed the children.

The judges called us in
by our cities. Jericho. Latakia. Haditha.

We swore on a god we never met, to love
the lakes, the ice caps,
one frost after another,

but at night in our dreams
the library burnt,
the pears were still crisp in the pantry.

We waited for our flooded village
to be siphoned, the stone bridges rebuilt.
We ate the house keys with salt.


Z, I'll meet you as dawn
splinters the city into
a forest of reed and lichen.
Remember us lost.
Remember us before this
longing, asleep in
each of our houses-
yours ancient, mine lush
with the scent of rosemary,
irises zippered between
fallen mosques. Each rainfall
incites the paradise
you spoke of, unworn rubies,
carafes of silk, a glorious sky.
You are the leopard and the
beautiful prey it stalks,
mouth poised over a pool
of melted snow. I wanted
silver mist, a veil of
wasps thronging the lilies, pink
grapefruits pulped and
nested with ants. I wanted
abandon. You held
the slender neck of the viola,
wrote verses about birds
and their skulls.
Trees are the ships that
house us now. Our lives lit.
You say exodus will save us,
a necklace of grungy cities.
I'll do wudu a thousand times.
I'll pray to your scientific god.
--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01JA2XXYS
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (August 15, 2016)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ August 15, 2016
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 854 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 88 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0809335409
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 12 ratings

About the author

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Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in Guernica and other literary journals. Her poetry collection ATRIUM was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry, while her latest collection, HIJRA, was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and published by Southern Illinois University Press. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, is forthcoming by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. She is a Lannan fellow and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Customer reviews

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4.6 out of 5
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