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“I began the poem with fruit in mind, apples specifically, and not my mother, and definitely not as an elegy, but that I went there is no surprise. I’m almost the same age my mother was when she died, a fact I let hover over me. Be that as it may, for a long time now I’ve felt that all my poems, ultimately, are elegies, even when—especially when—they are bursting with life.”
Hayan Charara

Elegy with Apples, Pomegranates, Bees, Butterflies, Thorn Bushes, Oak, Pine, Warblers, Crows, Ants, and Worms

The trees alongside the fence
bear fruit, the limbs and leaves speeches
to you and me. They promise to give the world
back to itself. The apple apologizes
for those whose hearts bear too much zest
for heaven, the pomegranate
for the change that did not come
soon enough. Every seed is a heart, every heart
a minefield, and the bees and butterflies
swarm the flowers on its grave.
The thorn bushes instruct us
to tell our sons and daughters
who carry sticks and stones
to mend their ways.
The oak tree says to eat
only fruits and vegetables;
the pine says to eat all the stirring things.
My neighbor left long ago and did not hear
any of this. In a big country
the leader warns the leader of a small country
there must be change or else.
Birds are the same way, coming and going,
wobbling thin branches.
The warblers express pain, the crows regret,
or is it the other way around?
The mantra today is the same as yesterday.
We must become different.
The plants must, the animals,
and the ants and worms, just like the carmakers,
the soap makers before them,
and the manufacturers of rubber
and the sellers of tea, tobacco, and salt.
Such an ancient habit, making ourselves new.
My neighbor looks like my mother
who left a long time ago
and did not hear any of this.
Just for a minute, give her back to me,
before she died, kneeling
in the dirt under the sun, calling me darling
in Arabic, which no one has since.

Copyright © 2015 by Hayan Charara. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Hayan Charara. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Hayan Charara

Hayan Charara

Hayan Charara is the author of Something Sinister (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2016).

by this poet

poem

They kept showing up, for days,
dead on the windowsill,
and for days I did nothing about the ladybugs
except to ask if their entering the house
unnoticed and dying before I saw them
was symbolic.
Thinking so was easy.
They symbolized birth and death,
change and rebirth.

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