Poetry by Ruth Awad

"Untitled" by Janie Stamm / janiestamm.com



Learning Arabic

Suspended in
the Téléphérique
above Harissa,
I see our salt-white
lady reach for Beirut.
Language is both
the cedar shade
and mountain road,
the bay licking the heels
of Jounieh. My auntie
teaches me the Arabic
word for cat. My
American tongue
and bare legs
say I’m Lebanese
only in blood.
She wants me
to learn.
If not for cables,
we would drop
to our deaths.
If not for our blood,
we’d be untethered.
What saves us
is the one
small thing:
a cable,
a call to prayer,
a new word
strung like a pearl
in the mouth
of a girl.



After the Argument

We blur into shapes, our bodies
like a question we keep asking each other.
My wings fold down my back, slighted.
I know somewhere in my chiseled heart
I am vicious and unlovable, that you
see me circling from an overpass and say:
Look at the bird that only eats the dead.
I dreamt of a tunnel dark as a feather.
Our bed heavy with the dream, I woke
you with my crying. I slip her name
into my beak and fly off.



Ruth Awad is the Lebanese-American author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of a 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and she won the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Poetry, Poem-a-Day, The Believer, The New Republic, Pleiades, The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, CALYX, Diode, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and she lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio.